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Books by Andrew Lytle 











F/W; Edition 

To Edna 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 




'hen I saw the house I said, 
"The lines are good. It is in 
bad repair, but it will suit my 
purpose all the better." Its decay was not such that it 
was beyond restoration. Perhaps I should say regener- 
ation, for I had bought more than a house. There was 
land attached and because land has history, is history 
rather, involving lives and fateful happenings, it is more 
exact to say regeneration. I ignored this fact, looking 
over the house with her that fall afternoon and talking 
excitedly over the problems which the abuse of indif- 
ferent tenants and croppers had caused, in their brutish 
way emphasizing the neglect of the owners. How sad, 
I reflected, and how evil a thing it is, to let a noble 
establishment be put into the hands of the depraved 
who care only for draining the land of its strength, al- 
ways taking out, never putting back the food of life ! 
But at the. moment I must confess it was the house 
which occupied me. In spite of the decay it was beau- 
tiful on that day, a day bright and cool with the first 
dry breath of autumn. How much I would have spared 
us all, had I faced logically the entire meaning of the 
ruin we were about to enter and make our own ! 

I am convinced now there are certain places which 



the past holds, literally, absolutely, and with a tenure 
no present occupant can dispute. I do not pretend to 
understand the metaphysics of such a lien, but I have 
felt its power. I do not speak now of the -grosser illu- 
sion of ghosts with chains and such tommyrot, and yet 
who can say that even they, in all their melodramatic 
clanking, do not exist? What forms of being, what 
substances, do we not today accept, which once the 
wisest opinion would have denied ? Man's brain, whirl- 
ing in the vacuum it creates, precipitates from nothing 
the once hidden secrets of the universe. I smile as I use 
the word. Even the laws of the universe in this dark 
crucible must find another definition. 

At some remote time the farm had belonged to my 
family, not to my immediate forebears, but to a col- 
lateral branch of the Revolutionary major who "re- 
moved," as the saying went, to the current West of the 
time. There have been so many Wests in our national 
life it puzzles me no end why historians take so little 
account of the true meaning of this remarkable cir- 
cumstance. Unhappily our scholarship took for model 
the nineteenth-century German method of objectivity 
with all its sterile accumulation of data for data's sake. 
So many sins, public and private, have been disguised 
by pseudoscientific jargon. Like the mole underground 
the scholars dug and they dug, in their blindness 
through their dark tunnel. And the historian most of 
all reflected this infatuation. To write straight English 
prose made him suspect among his fellows. To show 




imagination— that was professional suicide. The West, 
the progression of Wests : could he not see that there 
was more than accident to this repetition ? The word, 
the faith rather of it, always in the American con- 
* ' -sciousness, the last resort of the desperate in fortune 
and body, what could it mean but one thing ? To yearn 
for the West is simply to yearn for death. Why was 
it given to me, to me alone, to understand it like a 
prophet and to suffer it like a martyr? 

I had just left Ellen somewhere in the house. The 
tenant's wife had given us permission to go through it, 
too obligingly I thought, or rather I didn't think. I 
only felt the woman's manner. But I paid her no 
mind, for I was enthralled with my wife's enthusiasm 
and her light gay movements about the dirty, scarred 
rooms. The wallpaper was torn from the walls, the 
plaster cracked and written upon, the edges of the 
floors painted the most horrid color of yellow; and 
where there wasn't the grime of years, the tenants' 
filthy disorder made even the grime look respectable. 
Through this Ellen sailed like an angel, exclaiming 
over the impressive woodwork, the winding stair, all 
the good points which she and I would revive for our 
own ends. I had never admired or loved her more than 
on that day. Her lovely little feet fairly seduced me 
all over again. There was something, as my father 
had said, about her gait. If he could have seen her 
then, he would have known it was the gait of a thor- 



Disorder and ruin fascinate yet depress me. I felt 
the need for air and perspective and so went out into 
the yard. Soon I was busy at the problems before us. 
A small passageway between the kitchen and the main 
dwelling had been closed. This must be knocked out 
to restore the charm of covered ways meant to pro- 
tect servants from the weather. The roof needed paint- 
ing, window sills had rotted away, blinds were hang- 
ing askew or missing entirely; but I told myself that 
these were superficial things after all. The house, built 
of solid brick, was surely sound. How long it took me 
to finish these calculations I have no way of knowing. 
I merely wandered to the front of the house, thinking 
Ellen would be there. She was not there. This seem- 
ingly trivial fact contained for us the mystery of all 
fatality. It gave the slight jar to the door which even 
then was closing to shut us off from the natural world. 
The fateful moments of life are never discerned as 
they occur. Nor are they ever dramatic. At best they 
count as unimportant trifles to be brushed aside or for- 
gotten. But later, when it is too late, we see them for 
what they are: signposts. It is for this reason they 
go unnoted. A sign points the way. It makes no com- 
ment on the end of the journey. 

I called Ellen's name. The tenant's wife came to 
the door and said, "Ellen's in here." 

I looked at her coldly. "Whom do you mean?" I 
asked. "Mrs. Brent?" 

I felt both anger and pity for the woman. The 


kA kame fo% evil 

unique triumph of universal education is the success- 
ful way it debases the-mind. Besides making the ig- 
norant arrogant, this spun sugar of our political car- 
nival has corrupted manners. A little understanding 
of reading, writing, and ciphering caused this poor 
woman — I do not overlook her feeling of injustice, but 
alas, if one seeks justice . . . — to assert her feeling of 
inferiority by assuming a social familiarity which 
doesn't come by paying the poll tax. If she had been 
called on to justify herself, she would have said, "She 
ain't no better'n me." To this has come Jefferson's 
dream and to this the lifting of a political phrase out 
of the context of its time. In God's sight we are all 
equal, but God's intentions are inscrutable. In the 
blindness of the world there is no alternative to good 
manners but brute force. 

As we were driving away I said to Ellen, "I told 
the tenant he would have to find another place." 

"But I thought you were going to let him stay on?" 

I then explained to her my reasons. Her voice 
hastened, "But it is too late to trade for another 

"I will find someone." 

"But if you don't, we can't afford to let the farm 
lie idle and we are not ready to move." 

"If the worst comes to the worst, we can take over," 
I said confidently. 

"But the house — we can't live in it as it is." 

"We won't be living. We'll camp at first and see 



o4 HA ME F0% EVIL 

it change under our hands. I think that would be 
rather fun." 

"Fun?" She queried. "There's no waterworks . . . 
no ... no bathroom." 

"Mighty good people made out all their lives with- 
out a bathroom. We ought to for a while." 

"I know, but, darling . . ." 

"Now, don't you worry your pretty head about 
this. I'll fix it." 

She was silent as we drove back to town. 



/s it turned out, Ellen's appre- 
J hensions were justified. I could 
C-^ h not find a tenant who would take 
over responsibility for the farm. I did find a Negro 
family who had been associated with the place for 
many generations. This family moved in that winter, 
but we waited until early spring. To try to live in the 
house over the hard winter months would have ex- 
posed us to unnecessary hardship. After all The Grove, 
for so the place was called, was to serve us, not we it. 

We arrived one day in early spring to take formal 

"Are you sure this is what you want?" Ellen was 

We had just stopped the car in front of the house 
and were looking at it. We had not alighted. We sat 
in silence, I at the wheel and she beside me. I replied 
irritably, or perhaps my voice carried a conviction that 
was rather forced. "Of course this is what I want," I 
said. And then as if to press her as an accomplice, 
"Don't you want to do it? We've talked and planned 
of a place all our own, a sort of base. Well, you've 
got to have a place to keep your books." 

"I was only thinking," she said. 



"Thinking of what?" 

"It's going to take a lot of money and a lot of 
work. I thought . . ." 

"Yes?" I was a little impatient. 

"Only that we ought to be sure." 

"Of course we are sure," I said and got out of the 

I slammed the door harder than I meant to. 

She came to me and slipped her arm through mine. 
I pressed her to me for an instant. I did not under- 
stand my mood. I felt as if I had been put on the de- 
fensive and that my defense was false. This made me 
irritable, for there was no apparent reason for it. 
Nothing had occurred to make me change my mind, 
but as I stood on the broad lawn and looked through 
the old ragged cedars at the dwelling, I involuntarily 
pressed Ellen's arm into my side. We had seen The 
Grove many times, in fact and in the mind's eye, but 
we had never seen it empty before. The sloven 
Blacks — that was the name of the tenants I had 
ejected — gave it a certain if sorry kind of life. Well, 
life is scarcely the word. They had never lived there 
in the sense that you make a house reflect your being. 
Nor was it merely that they were slipshod tenants. I 
have seen croppers turn a shack into a livable and 
thriving scene of domestic well-being. The Blacks 
had done little better than camp at the place. Now 
gone, they could no longer divert me from seeing the 
truth. It was this truth which held my eyes and fixed 
me to the spot. The Grove did not look empty ! Even 



in its forlorn condition it gave all the appearance of 
having a life of its own. What this might be I, in my 
ignorance, could not decide. But in a few short sec- 
onds this much of my feeling had clarified itself : what- 
ever this life was, it was to become ours too. 

With this thought in mind I turned to Ellen. I 
turned with the abruptness of the descent of this 
knowledge. "Come, darling," I said with spirit, "I 
must carry you over the threshold." 

"No, you don't," she answered playfully but push- 
ing me away all the same. "You've carried me over 
two thresholds already." 

I tried to grab her but she raced across the lawn, 
under the great cedars and up to the entrance door- 
way. She pulled open the heavy walnut door and sidled 
in. "Wait for me," I cried and ran after her, but be- 
fore I could reach the top step, the door slowly swung 
to between us. 

I grasped the knob. It was old brass and probably 
rusty. I grabbed it, turned it, but the door remained 
fast. Nervously I shook it, shaking, and calling her 
name. She did not answer. I set my face against the 
long red glass, those happy inventions of a day of 
much visiting, cast to give the host that moment of 
advantage, after the knocker falls, when he may look 
out but the guest may not look in. The redness of the 
glass blurred the long entrance hall, and the winding 
stair wavered as objects do under water, but Ellen 
I did nowhere see. I had only to run to the back of 
the house to enter, but I felt drawn to that door. 



Through that door alone I would enter and find my 
wife. It was ridiculous. The day was overcast and 
coldish, as are so many early spring days, but it was 
ten o'clock in the morning. Men were turning the 
land. In the field to the side of the house two dogs 
were chasing a rabbit, and yet I felt that to separate 
my hand from that tarnished brass knob would set 
me adrift on a tow which would sweep me forever 
away from the safe known into the swirling pools of 
strangeness. I made a lurch at the knob — you can see 
how far gone I was in hysteria — when at my ear a 
voice said, "Excuse me, sir, I'll unlock d' door for 

"But it isn't locked," I almost shouted. 

The Negro bent down and slipped the old key into 
its lock, making the necessary movement into a bow, 
with just, the proper inclination of his head in my 
direction. In that short time I managed to compose 
myself so that I was fairly calm as he stepped back. 

"You can enter now," he said gravely, handing me 
the key. "Them folks give it to me when they re- 

"Thank you, Johnny," I replied more easily. "Miss 
Ellen went in before me. I could not understand how 
the door locked itself." 

He made no response to this but presented me the 
blank mask of patience and reserve which with Ne- 
groes of a certain generation seems to imply a secret 

Once inside I hurried through empty rooms, each 



one flashing its peculiar mark of decay and abuse . . . 
paper hanging from the walls, the stain of rain, old 
rags thrust through a window light. I hurried on, 
into the dining room, its grime and grease thick on 
the floor and splashed about the wainscoting near the 
mantel. The rusty flue mouth gaped obscenely. 
Charred holes gouged the floor where the Blacks and 
others like the Blacks had set the cookstove. It was 
the well-swept floors which set off these marks of 
debased living. Johnny had followed my directions. 
I noted this even in my distraction, for the landlord 
can tell by the way the new tenant reacts to his orders 
how well they will get on together. 

But in none of these rooms did I find Ellen. I waited 
until I had got out of hearing of the hall and called. 
It was important not to be surprised again in Johnny's 
hearing. "Ellen!" My voice sounded no louder than 
an urgent whisper. "Ellen, Ellen" went before me up 
the back stairs and through the upper rooms of the 
L. But no reply did I get to an appeal become too des- 
perate for the occasion. My alarm was absurd, yet for 
all its absurdity, how real! 

The particular charm of the place lay in its L. The 
house itself was the usual multiple of the dog run, 
raised to imposing proportions, hall above and below, 
with four bedrooms of enormous size opening on the 
upper hall and attached to each room a small cabinet 
for dressing. Near the front of the upper hall a pas- 
sage opened onto a long narrow gallery, with brick 
arches supporting the roof. This gallery repeated 



itself on the other side, so that one might walk entirely 
around the three small rooms, all in a row and open- 
ing to either view. Each room stood at a level lower 
than the one above, causing you to step down the 
arched way until you came to the bottom level. Here 
the gallery separated the end room from the other 
two. In this room I found Ellen. 

The door stood open. A moment passed before she 
gave any sign of recognition. On seeing me, she 
started slightly. "Why, darling, you seem all in a 
fuss," she said, smiling sweetly and coming forward. 

"Didn't you hear me call?" 

"Call?" she returned with a winning innocence. 
How well and perfect was her surprise at the quality 
of alarm still in my voice! And truly now my alarm 
seemed foolish enough and I found I had nothing to 
say. As if sensing my embarrassment, she chattered 
in the thoroughly natural way of a good housekeeper, 
"Whoever cleaned up," she said, "gave out when they 
got here. Look. Nothing has been swept in this room. 
The dirt is inches deep." 

"I'll speak to Johnny about this," I said and laughed 
heartily, too heartily, /as it seemed to her, for the oc- 
casion. She looked at me with a queer expression. 
Naturally my sudden burst of laughter seemed strange 
to her, but I could not explain without alarming her 
or else seeming more foolish in her eyes. Neither did 
I want to do. And indeed my fears now seemed alto- 
gether fantastic, and having nothing to say, I grew 



silent once more. Ellen in her wonderfully tactful 
way began to speak. 

"Look," she said enthusiastically. "We can make 
this entire upper L into our apartment. We will glass 
in the arches. One room shall be our bedroom. One 
an upstairs sitting room. That of course will really 
be mine, but we will call it ours. And this room — " she 
looked slowly about it — "dust and all, shall be your 

"Fine," I responded with enthusiasm to match hers. 
"It is here we will begin the restoration. " 
\Why> I do not know, but I said it like a challenge.' 



7 he feeling", premonition, call it 
whatever you will — certainly it 
had no logical genesis — I had had 
before the door to the entrance hall stayed with me. 
Not that I brooded on it, nor even thought about it. It 
had entered my blood, changing its chemistry, diffused, 
unseen, awaiting the catalytic agent which would pre- 
cipitate it, when it would appear in all the awful iso- 
lation of its elemental state. 

I recall the busy weeks of this period, when I- was 
both aware and unaware of the approaching connec- 
tion of events so dire that now I wonder how, for a 
moment, I misread the signs. There was the small 
matter of the unswept room, trivial enough in itself 
and easily explained: the house was big and the 
sweeper or sweepers had merely overlooked the small 
room at the end of the L's second story. I should have 
forgotten it by payday, as indeed I forgot it during 
the interval; but as I made out the pay check it came 
to me to say, so casually there was not the slightest 
hint of what I sought, "By the way, Johnny, they 
didn't sweep the little room upstairs." 

My statement was met by silence, so that I had to 
repeat myself. I did this deliberately, to take the 



proper strategic position to force from him the true 
reason for the neglect. Johnny's silence had told me 
what I had suspected : the room had not been ignored 
for any of the obvious reasons. I unbent somewhat 
and said in my most pleasant manner, "Come now, 
Johnny, what was the reason?" As I spoke, I looked 
directly at him, to let him know I would not laugh or 
assume an attitude by which he would lose dignity. 
He returned my look with the degree of confidence I 
had invited. 

"That's old Major Brent's room," he answered. 

There was no apology in the muddy white of his 
eyes. Nor in his voice. His speech was a statement, 
and he spoke it as if it were self-explanatory. But I 
did not let him off so easily. 

"What do you mean, Major Brent's room? He's 
been dead seventy-five years." 

"He a hard man. He don't like folks projecting wid 
his things." ? 

"So you believe in ghosts?" I asked with reproving 

In a most polite way he followed the line of his eva- 
sion. "When he a old man, he stand on the porch 
there, in the dark, and ring the bell. And his boys 
better waste no time gitten up. He drove them hard 
as he drove he hands. He stand there and lay out the 
work for the day, work most folks take three days to 
do. He say, 'No triflen. If you kill a mule, I'll buy 
another. If you kill a Negro, I'll buy another.' And 
they say, 'Yessir, Pa.' Then he go upstairs to he 



room, and we all knowed he had eyes like a crow." 

I waited before I spoke again. Then I leaned for- 
ward. "But, Johnny, you weren't living then." 

"No, sir," he replied, with the proper deference for 
the amenities, and then resumed, "If us'ud stop at the 
end of the row to blow a spell, he tap the bell. We 
knowed what dat meant. The sun was sizzlen hot and 
the clods hot to our f eets and our bref dried out our 
moufs, but didn't nobody tarry. Not here. No, sir, 
not here dey didn't." 

"But, Johnny," I said with a slight edge to my words, 
"that was years ago, before you or anybody in this 
country was born." 

"Yessir," he said respectfully. 

"Ghosts can't hurt you." 

"No, sir," he agreed. 

"Then why were you afraid to sweep my room." 

"Major Brent don't allow nobody in there." 

I was baffled. Johnny was not senile. He was not 
crazy. He had all the guile and simplicity of a country 
Negro, and I was certain he was a man of character. 
In spite of myself he had put me on the defensive. It 
was he, not I, who determined the limits of our talk. 
I either had to lose my temper, a bad thing always 
for the boss, or accept the fiction that old Major Brent 
had a kind of immortality attributed only to demigods. 
Certainly he could not be numbered among ghosts of 
the common garden variety. 

I shifted ground and tried to get at Johnny another 



way. I could not leave things as they were: that is, I 
could in no way accept the fiction his attitude would 
impose, the impossible position of allowing the spirit 
of a dead man to determine what would and would 
not be done at The Grove. At the same time I knew 
that I would fail if I had to come to grips with a 
superstition of such peculiar power. I had to recover 
control and I had to do it then and there. I thought 
fast. It did not take me a minute to reach a decision. 
I did what was left to do. I accepted the full measure 
of the challenge — a strange kind of engagement it 
was — between the living and the dead. I accepted it 
without hesitation and without reservations. My de- 
cision brought relief, as I raised my eyes and looked 
squarely at Johnny. "I am taking that little room for 
my study/' I said and paused to let this information 
sink in. Then I added quietly, "Whoever occupied it 
in the past, be it man or spirit, can file no claim now. 
It is too late. Mine it is, and mine alone." 

His expression did not change, but I saw that I 
had made my point and well made it. Seeing how my 
position had strengthened, I made it stronger still. 
"Of course, I can't occupy a dirty room. If your 
women are afraid of ghosts, I won't ask them to tend 
it." I could feel, oh with what joy I felt that I now 
held the reins! "If necessary," I said, "I'll sweep it 
myself." How well I had calculated I could see in the 
slight shift of the shoulders, a dropping and a straight- 
ening. Those few seconds told me much. He was not 



a servant who worked only for wages. That was the 
advantage I had over him. It was on that knowledge 
I gambled. He knew I could not be allowed to dust 
my own furniture. He said very simply, "I will tend 
the room." 

I bowed slightly, to indicate that such would be 
agreeable to me ; then to make the sure surer, to con- 
solidate my already consolidated position, I spoke once 
more before he returned to the matter of farm busi- 
ness on which he had come. "You must know, Johnny, 
that if you look to a ghost for meat, your chin will 
get mighty dry." I was cool and reserved as I spoke, 
perhaps with a touch of humor, to soften the implied 
threat of my words. Then quickly I shifted the con- 

I did this as much as anything to disguise my tri- 
umph, and it was no slight one. There would be no 
more of this business of referring to the dead as alive. 
Wryly I thought how nice it would be if old Major 
Brent would pay the taxes. A ghost was a perfectly 
recognizable myth. I could dispose of that. But a 
man who was immortal? That was not for me, not 
with all the other problems I had to confront. And 
so it came about that in my delight I allowed Johnny 
to choose what fields would be planted in tobacco, in 
grain, and in hay. 

As he was turning away, he said, "I forgot to men- 
tion the corn ground. That field that lies next to the 
woods make mighty fine corn." 



"Go ahead. Plant it," I said in the security of my 

He put his hat on. "Major Brent likes his corn 
planted there," he said politely and, bowing slightly, 
walked away. 



I /ow was I to take this parting 
/ / statement ? As insolence ? I 
£y / confess that was my first re- 
action. It took a while to quiet the anger in my heart, 
and killing anger it was. Only by great effort did I 
restrain myself as my blurred eyes watched him walk 
calmly away with my triumph. But reason prevailed, 
slowly as the pounding in my head eased its strokes. 
After all, I had to tell myself, I had given him 
permission to plant the corn where he chose. His com- 
ment was a small matter. This, at least, was the offi- 
cial view to take. For could not I have ordered the 
corn put elsewhere? If I was tricked into giving per- 
mission, it was I, the rightful owner and landlord, 
who had to be tricked. And so long as the duel kept 
to the rules, I was content. At least I would win or 
lose on my own merit and skill. But the more I turned 
Johnny's behavior over in my head the more I dis- 
missed the idea of any intended insolence. He had 
been connected with The Grove longer than I. In his 
way he had shown respect for its tradition, certainly 
a virtue I should try to increase, not thwart. I was 
the interloper, the untried one. For almost the years 
of his life Johnny had seen owners and tenants abuse 



house and land. It was to his honor that he kept faith 
with the memory of Major Brent, the only man within 
his knowledge who had brought The Grove to its 
highest moment and then sustained it. In his tradi- 
tion-respecting mind Johnny could find little help 
from the dead. Countryman that he was, he was too 
familiar with the natural order : the dead are dead. So 
dramatically, and because of the drama to his mind 
believable, he went beyond the laws of nature and 
endowed the Major with the mystery of immortality 
and its limitless prerogatives. 

So I worked it out at the moment. In those days I 
had skill in such matters. I prided myself on know- 
ing people better than they knew themselves, and ob- 
viously the situation had to be solved or I was faced 
with ruin. I could not actually farm the land myself ; 
I could not afford to lose a crop without endangering 
all I had put into the venture, not to mention my 
peace of mind, or Ellen's. 

I am not a romantic. The true romantic has hidden 
pockets into which his imagination secretes a drug to 
protect him from the common evils of the hour. I 
am, I was, that most unhappy of hybrids, the false ro- 
mantic. With will and deliberation, and this is the 
essence of the difference, the false romantic ignores 
the true nature of reality. For the time being. And 
in the beginning he knows it is only for the time being. 
With care and half-averted eye he hangs the veil of 
illusion between himself and the world. Almost from 
habit he believes the veil was hung by God, or in the 



most violent falsification of his nature, he becomes 
God. I say almost, for he never quite forgets what 
he is doing. There is this to be said for him. More 
often the injury done is to himself alone. The true 
romantic poisons the air all men breathe. 

Later, in my study, where I threw myself on the 
couch, exhausted from the ordeal, I began to review 
my situation. How blithely I had gone into this busi- 
ness ! And truly the idea had seemed sound : establish 
my family in one location as a safeguard against the 
hazards of my uncertain profession ; regenerate a fam- 
ily place and make up for the failure in trusteeship of 
those who had gone before. Was this unduly roman- 
tic ? There, on the couch in that little study, I seemed 
to myself no squatter but the proper kind of heir. And 
besides, how much more worth while, how much more 
manhood this undertaking demanded than to stay in 
town, spend our days in poker playing and entertain- 
ing casual drifters who came to us to fill their empti- 
ness. What I had not foreseen was the magnitude of 
the undertaking. Both Ellen and I, she more than I, 
had had that moment of warning, standing there on 
the lawn when we had arrived to possess The Grove. 
This warning I refused to hear, and even now, when 
it sounded a second time and more clearly, for Johnny's 
obsession with the Founder was a line leading directly 
to the past— even now I might have withdrawn. In- 
stead I rose to my feet and silently — for where was 
my adversary visible? — renewed the challenge. I 
would stay and fulfill my destiny. 



And so the die was cast. It had been all along, but 
there is something final about deliberate choice, the 
act of will which saves or damns. In all good cama- 
raderie Ellen and I set up our double bed in one of 
the large rooms downstairs. How bare the bed made 
the room seem, and how impermanent our occupancy! 
The fact that it was a temporary arrangement did not 
help much. We had moved in below so that we could 
work freely on the apartment upstairs. Each night I 
had to look up at the cracks in the ceiling, at the strips 
of torn and faded paper. In spite of myself I began to 
feel unclean, spiritually at first and then more directly. 
I noticed if I were not careful, my body took on a poor- 
white smell. 

During these days I wondered again and again at 
lien's good sportsmanship. If I felt so, how must 
she feel? Her acceptance of a situation whose de- 
mands grew daily more complex brought from me 
nothing but admiration. Ordinarily a man does not 
care how things look, so long as he knows they will 
improve. But a woman of beauty, and Ellen's beauty 
was renowned, requires time to maintain it. There is 
the ritual of the hair, the hands, the exacting, oh so 
exacting art of make-up. There are the thousand and 
one things which a man does not understand but which 
a woman practices with the skill and discipline of an 
artist. In ordinary conditions the husband has little 
occasion to be aware of this endless effort to remain 
young and beautiful. But here, at The Grove, this 
effort made itself painfully apparent. 



As I watched her cope with the unending chores of 
housekeeping in her impossible surroundings and the 
renovation of our ruined grandeur, I felt the sweet 
pain of pathos bite into me, for her and for all creatures 
trapped by circumstance. She was one of those rare 
beings nature creates by accident. There was in her 
constitution almost a biological lack — an inability to 
suffer what we all must suffer, the plain facts of living. 
I said to myself that the power which creates made 
her as an image for all men to behold, an image of in- 
violability to change. This was her given function. 
This and this above all. She was never, oh never, to 
endure the common filth of living. But that same 
power had set her in the way of the world as it might 
hurl the ideal bird into the air and forget to give it 
wings to fly. 

|Or so it seemed to me in my partial knowledge] as I 
watched her slim figure, the small well-shod feet, the 
tailored look — for so she always appeared no matter 
what she wore — pass through the halls and rooms still 
showing the corrosion of time. I began to tremble, 
thinking of the day when the scales would drop from 
her eyes, that divine web which hid from her the 
vast complexity of our situation. This thought sent 
me into renewed activity, the haste that is always 
waste, the desperate compromise to get a thing done, 
no matter how. And to find that after the moral defeat 
which all compromises entail things were still undone, 
or only started to be dropped at the capricious hands 
of carpenters and plumbers. 



How near my fears approached the thing feared 
showed in an incident which happened at the lunch 
hour in early June. I was always coming or going on 
diplomatic missions to workmen. I came in, from 
what errand I do not now remember, and found Ellen 
standing by the table we had set up on the porch. The 
porch, I must add, had been repaired but, like every- 
thing else I had had done, was still unfinished. She 
was in tears. She stood back from the table, pointing 
at it, her face set in a strain of horror beyond any ob- 
vious cause. 

"Look!" she cried. "Just look!" 

The tone of hysteria in her voice frightened me. 
Quickly I looked where she pointed; saw the food set 
out and nothing more. I raised my eyes with a ques- 
tion. "But, darling, what?" 

"Those flies," she replied, in loathing and disgust. 

"Flies?" I repeated stupidly. 

"All morning I've worked hard in the kitchen to 
prepare a good lunch. Now look at it. It's ruined." 

"Flies are bad," I said. "But nothing's ruined. It's 
the time of year for them." I tried to soothe her as 
best I could. "Come, I'll shoo them away. As soon as 
I can get the wire, I'll screen in this part of the porch. 
In time I'll move the barn." 

She turned on me a look more of incomprehension 
than anger. "That's all you ever say, Henry. In time." 

"Why, honey." 

"You do nothing to make it easy for me. All day 
you ride around and walk in the fields and woods. I 



do the drudgery." Her voice drew fine. "You don't 
know what I put up with. You don't care." 

"I do care. You know I care. But there's a war on. 
It's hard to get things and get them done. I work at 
it every day, and I do care," I wound up. I thought I 
was magnificent in my restraint, but it brought me no- 
where. She refused to eat with me or eat at all. She 
fled to our room in tears and shut herself in. 

I had come in tired and hungry. Now my appetite 
was gone. I was also baffled and angry. My load was 
already as heavy as I could bear. To add to it in this 
way seemed unfair. The middle of a project is no 
time to judge it, nor judge me. So I felt, but I well 
knew that my feelings were beside the point. I turned 
away from the ruin of the meal, drew in my breath, 
and knocked at the door to our room. 

She was sitting up in bed, her swollen eyes staring in 
utmost dejection. 

"Darling, I'm sorry," I said. "I will make it better 
for you." 

She seemed not to hear. In a pitiful, childlike way 
she lifted her hands and turned them over, as if she 
were seeing them for the first time. 

"Look," she wailed, "how rough they are !" 

I sat beside her and took her hands in mine and ca- 
ressed them. But I could find no words for comfort. 
What was I to say? Your hands will grow smooth and 
white again? With no cook and no immediate pros- 
pect of help? 

Suddenly, with fierce intention, she grasped my 



hands. "Let's go away from this place. While there's 
time. We are young now. It will take years to make 
the house livable, even decent. Then it will be too 
late." Almost as an afterthought she added, "We will 
be old then. Old — and ugly." 

"Try to be patient," I said. 

That was all I could say. I felt foolish but there was 
desperation in my voice, for I was really saying, "Don't 
shake my faith in myself." My next words showed 
the full measure of my desperation. "What I am do- 
ing, Ellen, is for you." 

"Henry Brent, no other man would ask a woman to 
live like this," she said at last. 

Her words struck like a blow; then I was lost in 
the blank swoon of the heart in which, moments 
later, the meaning of her accusation rushed. This was 
not the frailty I had feared. This was much worse : a 
rift to make two of one, a blasphemy against the union 
of marriage, where common ends diverge. I had not 
foreseen it nor prepared for it. Nor was I now pre- 
pared. I could only stammer, "But you agreed." 

"I have tried," she said disconsolately and then 
raised her hand in a vague gesture toward the room. 

My eyes followed. The hot midday sun was stream- 
ing through the curtainless windows, leaving not a 
shadow to soften or disguise the room's bleak and 
sordid appearance. In one upper corner long brown 
streaks, the color of tobacco spittle, stained the wall. 
And everywhere the endless plaster cracks. In one 
corner sat a trunk piled with clothes. A lone chair 



faced the cheerless hearth, a thing of pure utility with 
no promise of domestic comfort. But nothing pointed 
out the bleakness of our situation so dramatically as 
the bilious-colored paint that once had outlined the 
rug. I don't know whyj, but the bare middle of the 
floor contained for me at that moment the most violent 
threat to our venture: nay — to our life even. 

At last I looked up, to face it out with Ellen. Erect, 
with her hands folded on the counterpane and tightly 
clasped, she sat withdrawn, immobile, straining into 
a stilled image, as if to move would open her body to 
the contagious air. What struck me most was her out- 
of -placeness in the room and also, in spite of her com- 
plaint about her hands, the certainty that the decay 
around us would never spread to her person or to her 
will. It might destroy, it would never claim her. I 
looked more closely and already saw marks of the 
struggle. Her old radiance had gone out of her, but 
she was still lovely to look at ; and where all was sor- 
did, she shone pure, trim, and immaculate. Shone 
was the word, but the light she gave off no longer 
came from an inner source. It was all surface reflec- 

And there she was and there I was, in the full flood 
of high noon, mere flecks in the hot speed of the sun, its 
rush a bright stillness from window to window until the 
solid brick walls all seemed of glass. In self-pity and 
sorrow for creature kind I understood how along this 
burning way time fused with space, how there was 
neither motion nor surface but endless extension into 



which all was lost. I understood the feeble valiant 
effort of builders to raise walls against this burning 
force which in giving life made it ignominious. Instinc- 
tively I went to her and took her in my arms and lay 
between her and the bright glare. She misunderstood 
my intention and pushed me away. "Don't," she said 
harshly. "Can't you see we have no privacy here?" 




tried to shut out the memory of 
this incident by redoubling my 
efforts. And during the follow- 
ing weeks I was up early and to bed late. Of course 
there was no time for my own proper work. Money was 
constantly going out and little coming in, but the house 
did show improvement. The back porch got screened in 
and painted, and our apartment upstairs was well under 
way, all except my office which I kept until last. That 
I would do alone. The wonder of it all was the way 
Ellen's spirits rose as the things got done. She seemed 
to have recovered entirely from her "breakdown," as 
she called it. She had even come to me and told me she 
would not let herself get out of hand again. My spirits 
rose too from this happy condition of our affairs, al- 
though there was a qualification to what I felt. Under- 
neath this surface of good will and good heart I could 
feel from time to time the tremors of the earth we, so 
to speak, stood on. Well, the quake of which they were 
the forewarning was not long in coming. 

My ear was to the ground, but I had allowed myself 
to drift into the state of hearing without translating the 
meaning of what I heard. I merely stored away the re- 
cordings without comment in that part of the mind 



where records are kept. Ellen's pleasure in what had 
been done blinded me to how little it was in relation to 
what we still had to do. There were as well growing 
doubts in my mind as to whether we would ever be able 
to complete the house's regeneration. The cost was 
mounting and fast mounting beyond my capacity to 
pay. If it was to be finished, we would have to do of 
necessity what once had seemed a labor of love : that is, 
do a great part of the work ourselves. This would take 
years out of our life and make of these years confusion 
and disorder, for a house must be so arranged that 
there is a place for everything. How could a well- 
ordered menage function with everything topsy-tur- 
vy, with tools and lumber all over and debris scattered 
about ? To set up the rooms as they were for living was 
out of the question. In the urgency of the daily crisis 
we would have to put off until the suitable time (which 
never comes) our intended restoration, until at last like 
the tenants who had gone before we would grow accus- 
tomed to our surroundings and carry a step farther, 
because of our corruption, the progress of ruin. 

So Ellen's first gloomy prophecy in the light of the 
actual situation seemed truer than her more recent op- 
timism. Even if by some miracle we brought the house 
to its former state, could we produce the conditions 
which had sustained it? Servants are as necessary to 
a large establishment as bread to the body. These might 
conceivably be obtained, but would the land sustain 
them ? The Grove at its heyday was a going concern in 
every way. No money was brought in from the outside 



to run it. The land maintained the economy of the 
house, its hospitality and gracious living. But since 
those days the country has become an extension of the 
town. Let us be frank. It is servile. Its mores, the 
price it gets for its products, the clothes it wears, almost 
what it thinks, are determined by an absentee master. 
You may name this master what you please. It matters 
little whether its elusive all-powerful mechanism is con- 
trolled by management or by labor. On either horn the 
farmer is gored. So among the many difficulties to be 
solved and got out of the way was the insoluble one of 

But sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. On this 
old saw I lived and moved, dealing with whatever situa- 
tion came up, putting it through or compromising it, 
and enjoying the respite it gave us both. Late at night 
we would talk of the progress made that day and of the 
things still to do, or more often we fell into bed too 
weary for words and stumbled out at light to take up 
whatever came to hand. And so our life went at The 
Grove, swiftly, pleasantly, as only it can go when two 
people who love each other, who have quarreled and 
made up, are doing things together. That it was slow, 
that it was little, that the means to prosecute it were 
fast diminishing, lay like shadows at high noon, which 
the eye wonders at but dismisses in the bright swelter 
of the hour. 

The very brightness of this period, as I try to re- 
call it, seems brief enough, scarcely more than a flash 
before the gloom which settled down. I remember no 



clear division between the night and the day of our or- 
deal. The change came suddenly, like the turning out 
of a light. What followed was the endless groping in 
the dark, when the familiar landmarks of the room turn 
strange, and the terror is greater for the knowledge 
that all you touch should be familiar. The darkness 
then seems no longer confined but the very core of 
night's wide spaces. 

Often during this time I found myself thinking of 
my predecessor. I can call him that, for those who 
dwelt at The Grove between his time and mine might 
as well have never lived for any thought I gave them. 
I thought of him with envy and sometimes almost with 
hatred, for he had had all I was denied. I could almost 
see him beyond the grave willing me to make him im- 
mortal. The Grove was his conception. It bore the 
stamp of his mind and his will. And his mind and his 
will / was restoring and the better I did it the more I 
submerged my personality and the greener his kept. If 
into his habitation I could have established my family 
after the fashion of my hopes, I could have mocked him. 
The probability of my failure and his success haunted 
me. Was he really a better man than I ? Could I in his 
place and in his time have done as well ? Could he have 
coped with the situation, if our roles had been re- 
versed ? I could never make up my mind to these ques- 
tions. At times I fell back on the frail comfort that I 
had undertaken an impossible job. But always the ele- 
ment of doubt crept in to plague me, for given any set 
I of limitations one man will succeed where another fails. 

<y{ HA ME F0% EVIL 

The Grove had one feature which somehow had 
escaped the careless hands that had misguided so much 
else. It was the way the lawn sloped away from the 
house until it lost itself in a fine woods. Ellen and I 
had formed the habit, when the going got especially 
tough, of walking away from our troubles into the cool 
green spaces, where we strolled for hours on end. And 
always we returned refreshed to the battle. One eve- 
ning about dusk, coming from the fields with the day's 
work behind, I passed through these woods on the way 
to the house. As I stepped out onto the lawn, I came in- 
stinctively to a dead stop. I say instinctively, but even 
now I do not know whether at first I felt or saw what 
confronted me. In one of the arches of the upper gal- 
lery stood the figure of a man. It stood in the arch 
which framed the door leading into the room we were 
doing over for Ellen. The house was a fair distance 
away, but through the cedars, as one must see it from 
my position, it appeared farther than it was. So it 
happened I could not quite make out the person's fea- 
tures. My first impression was that it was some guest 
looking over our improvements. I waved my hand and 
hurried across the lawn to greet him. When we first 
moved to the country, many of our acquaintances and 
friends made trips to see us. Their curiosity once sat- 
isfied they rarely braved the bad roads to make a second 
visit. But they were always welcome and so I went for- 
ward with pleasant anticipations. At that time of day 
objects are clear enough but the detail is blurred; so I 
had gone a little way before two things came to me, as 



it happened, almost instantaneously : one, that my greet- 
ing had not been returned ; and two, that there was no 
car in the driveway by which a guest could have 

The shock of this double surprise slowed my steps 
and I came again to a halt. As I try now to remember 
it, the shock I felt was not at first very great. It was 
more a feeling of things being not quite right. It never 
occurred to me at the moment to wonder how this man 
got on the upper gallery. I assumed that he had made 
himself known to Ellen and had given her a satisfac- 
tory explanation of his business there, or she would 
not have let him in. Our situation was remote enough, 
so that I felt little danger from the gentlemen of no 
location who wander the highways. We were definitely 
on a byway; still I had warned her to be circumspect 
about strangers. If they happened upon us all the more 
reason for caution, since their mere presence would de- 
mand a clear explanation. What changed almost in a 
breath my puzzlement to alarm came out of, or made, 
the chill in the air which tightened my skin and made 
it tingle with fear. I had stopped beneath one of the 
giant cedars and from this position I had a direct and 
unimpeded view of the house. I could see and what I 
saw intensified my feeling of things not being right to 
a positive knowledge of something being very wrong. 
What I got first on the rebound was the certainty that 
I had never before seen the figure who was making 
himself so free of my house. As this stf uck me, it also 
struck me that he had all the air of one whose right to 



be where he was could never be questioned. The syn- 
thesis of the eye makes the analysis of statement slow 
and cumbrous, so that what I now report in detail mis- 
construes by the limitations of print the exact intensity 
of the emotions which fixed me to the spot. 

My first impulse was to call out ; but, realizing that 
he had not yet seen me, I took advantage of this to spy 
on him. I suppose this was my intention. It may have 
been I needed time to collect my wits. I know I froze 
as animals do when they sense danger, swallowed up 
by the frightful quiet which seemed all the more sinis- 
ter for being a grotesque mockery of the dying away, 
the closing up of sound, common to the day's end. But 
the quiet into which I had sunk, which made my breath 
seem gross and noisy, although I scarcely breathed, 
was the quiet of the wave's trough or that moment of 
breathlessness when a high wind shuts off suddenly to 
gather itself for greater fury. 

Across the space which joined us I tried to catch 
his gaze moving slowly in my direction. But it passed 
above me as if I were not there, pausing not even for an 
instant of recognition, all the while restlessly scanning 
the woods behind me. How can I say how long this 
took ? Time passed, but also my recognition of it. This 
I know, time enough for me to see him so clearly as to 
make friends of a lifetime seem shadowy strangers 
passed in the street. I saw that he wore a hat — wide- 
brimmed and black — but no tie or collar. One hand 
grasped a staff, the other hung at his side. There was 
no movement of neck or head, only the lustrous eyes, 



restless, searching, boring the woods like gimlets. 
My intolerable situation pressed on me I opened my 
mouth to call out, but even as I did so, he turned away 
and deliberately, as if he knew the way, walked in the 
direction of my study. He passed behind an arch. I 
waited the seconds it would take him to come out on the 
other side. I waited. I strained my eyes. All to no pur- 
pose. He passed behind the arch. He did not come out 
on the other side. 




ne does not reckon time at such 
moments, but when I ran for the 
house I had the feeling that I had 
waited too long. In one step I was on the porch. An- 
other took me into the hall. I bounded up the stairs 
and down the drops of the gallery porch. Nothing did I 
see. Cautiously I put my hand on the knob of the door 
to my study and flung it back. What I would have done 
had I surprised a vicious marauder I cannot say, for 
I had not stopped to pick up even a stick. Luckily, or 
unluckily- — the edge of truth is finely drawn in such 
contingencies — I faced an empty room. I looked all 
through it, behind the door, into closets meant for book- 
cases, I looked under my desk, but in all this frenzied 
search I found just what I knew I would find — nothing. 
I told myself I must be thorough. There was the up- 
stairs apartment to go through. No opportunity for 
doubt must be left lurking in my consciousness to 
trouble me, now that the swell of what I had felt grow- 
ing about us at The Grove had at last exploded in my 
face. I had lost that first charge of fear. Almost I felt 
a deep relief, a kind of courage I never knew I had 
Here was something which would call up to the very 
last reserve my manhood. No more plumbers and car- 



penters, no more painters and paper hangers to try the 
patience of a dozen Jobs. Here was drama, with the 
first act started, and the protagonist on the stage. 

I ran into Ellen outside my door. By now the world 
had reached the division between night and day, those 
few short minutes when the sky has just enough light 
to show up the dark, before it closes in. The moment 
we met I noticed she was a little out of breath, but what 
drove all else away was the look of her face. By reflec- 
tion I saw how I must have appeared to her. "What in 
the world is the matter?" she asked. 

"Do I look that bad?" 

"Terrible, Henry." 

"Terrible?" I was playing for time. 

"You look like a ghost." 

I looked at her sharply. "And how does a ghost 
look? Have you ever seen one?" 

"Don't be silly. Come on down to supper before it 

Her words made me certain that I alone at The 
Grove had seen the intruder. I had sensed this fact, if 
you will, even before she appeared on the gallery. But 
what occupied me at the moment, as I hung back, was 
whether to tell her or keep my counsel. I was not long 
in reaching a decision. It came to me in one of those 
flashes of intuition which predetermine strategy that 
Ellen must not know. At least not for the present, cer- 
tainly not until I had had time to reflect, to sound the 
depths of whatever waters we were treading. This 
meant of course that I could not at that moment search 



the upstairs apartment. But, at once I reflected, there 
is the back stairs which opened an easy and quick 
escape. The visitor no doubt had already, had in fact 
before I arrived on the scene, disappeared into the an- 
onymous regions from which he had come. So with 
alacrity I took Ellen's hand and led her down to supper. 
I went with the more willingness because I carried 
away one unshaken conviction. I would not be too 
late next time. 

The strangest result of the whole encounter, among 
the numerous possibilities it opened up, was my part 
in it : that is, the change which came over me. It was 
the exact opposite to what one might have expected. 
My anxiety, my frustrations, all my gloomy preoccupa- 
tions with my problem, every one of them left me. The 
business which had plagued me, had sent me endless 
miles on fruitless errands, still existed. The need to 
keep at it was no less urgent than it had been. The 
house still showed its state of limited repair, the farm 
work still moved on its original halting lines ; the shift 
from a romantic preconception to actuality continued 
to rule our lives. Nothing had changed, and yet I had. 
All of this bothered me not at all. I was like a man 
aroused from the sleep of haunting dreams to a fair, 
brisk, and sunny day. And yet the reverse of all this 
came nearer the truth. I imitated Pilate. I did not ex- 
amine the truth ; I washed my hands of it. 

How shall I describe the ensuing days ? In this won- 
derful, almost miraculous, metamorphosis of feeling, 
of attitude, even of temperament which I had under- 



gone, I let the problems which were arising daily more 
or less work themselves out. And work themselves out 
they did, after a fashion. This allowed me time for 
Ellen's society. It was only then, in the happy mo- 
ments we spent together, that I understood how lonely 
she had been and how empty of the smaller pleasures 
my endless trips had made her life. 

With Johnny's help we spent several weeks finishing 
the apartment. He could spare certain days from farm 
work as he had three stout boys to help make his crop. 
Except for a local paper hanger and a cabinetmaker of 
some skill we did the entire job ourselves. I was par- 
ticularly proud of the floors. These fell to me. I rented 
a sander, worked them down, filled them, steel-wooled 
them, shellacked them, steel-wooled them again, and 
finally waxed and polished them. I have been rapid in 
the telling of it, but it was the hardest work I have ever 
done in all my life, and it was worth it. The floors were 
of wide ash boards, and when I got through they shone 
like satin. We rather splurged on the rugs and drap- 
eries, taking the money laid aside for the whole up- 
stairs. As I report it here, we seemed madly extrava- 
gant, but we had set ourselves high standards. The 
house deserved the best and with complete agreement 
we decided to do what we did well, even if it took years 
to whip the interior into shape. 

I still think this was the only way, the bold way, to 
approach our problem. Could we be held to account if 
we fell into the error of judgment common to all doers- 
over of old houses — underestimating the cost ? I think 



not. With the apartment in such shape that an honest 
decorator would find little to criticize we had established 
a strong point inside the enemy's lines. Within the 
walls of the three rooms we could follow the small but 
so important habits of civilized living. To this sanc- 
tuary we could retire, bind up our wounds, and rest. 
And from here we could return refreshed to the battle. 
With this surely gained, what was to keep us from ex- 
tending ourselves so that gradually we would set to 
rights the chaos of ruin everywhere about? What in- 
deed? This was the question I asked in the days to 
come and from every side approached for an answer. 



efore I get on, it would be well to 
pause and catch, so to speak, my 
imaginative breath. I must be 
sure that what I now relate has 
above all the correct emphasis. If I have forgotten the 
order, if I have misunderstood the least step, even, in 
the progress of events so rapidly advancing toward 
their fulfillment, I place myself in the way of fresh 
perils. Only this time the perils are quite definitely of 
the soul. Never before has the risk of judgment so in- 
volved the risk of damnation, for if the truth I now dis- 
close be not the truth but falsehood disguised in the 
habiliments of innocence, what then am I ? 

Doing things together brought us, as I thought, so 
close together that it made out of companionship a 
lovely harmony which is often lacking in married 
couples well away from the apprenticeship of the 
honeymoon. We felt as do people who, thinking they 
have lost a fortune, prepare for the dark dread of pov- 
erty only to discover that the fortune risked, instead of 
being lost, has returned tenfold. The evidence of this 
would seem commonplace enough — no more than the 
comforts and petty luxuries of civilized needs which 
the apartment now allowed us, or rather gave back 




tremendously enhanced in value by the recent depriva- 
tion we had suffered. How shall I put it ? The excite- 
ment and relief we shared will seem all out of propor- 
tion to the material value of our possessions. They 
were, indeed, little more than what a good salaried man 
in this preposterously wealthy country might command. 
There were soft rugs at our feet instead of dusty floors. 
There were curtains, beautiful to be sure, hanging at 
our windows. But who lacks curtains ? We had a fine 
old bed, inherited but done over at our expense and with 
good springs, but still any traveling salesman might 
sleep as well. 

We did have the advantage of Ellen's taste, and we 
did have something to work with which gave our quar- 
ters a distinction all the chromium plate in the world 
couldn't match. And at last we could keep the rooms 
clean. In the rest of the house this was a backbreaking 
job and one which got us nowhere. For all the sweep- 
ing, dust, that sign of abandonment, persisted. But 
now we passed from Ellen's room into her sitting room 
on clean beautiful floors, and from there across the cor- 
ridor to my room. My room was less extravagantly 
done over ; yet it was done over. But above all this our 
situation had a very special quality : on the one hand 
there was the apartment, on the other the rest of the 
house. In this sentence I have posited two worlds. The 
apartment allowed us to go on. It had blessed privacy. 
It was at times our refuge. It would come to have the 
grim tension of an embattled fortress. 

One of the many disillusionments in which are con- 

, 52 


tained the successive small shocks of life is the habit of 
growing accustomed to what falls your way. So it was 
that before many days I grew somewhat accustomed to 
the apartment. I modify this rather unctuous pro- 
nouncement by "somewhat," for the tremendous diffi- 
culties of our undertaking never let me take our gains 
too complacently. This produced in me a curious reac- 
tion. There were moments when I was acutely sensitive 
to our predicament, but most of the time I wandered 
about in a state of lethargy. Ellen had plans for the 
kitchen and dining room, but she could not rouse me to 
tackle them. I always put her off. Looking back on it, 
I can best describe my state of mind as that of one 
anxious to enjoy the newness of accomplishment before 
it dulled. I felt, if I felt anything, that there was time 
for the rest — of course there is never time — or perhaps 
I felt I must allow nothing to disturb the exquisite 
pleasure of being with Ellen and having the leisure to 
satiate myself with her company in surroundings at 
last proper to her beauty and grace. I would sit in a 
comfortable chair, with my leg thrown over its arm and 
watch her at her toilet. I feasted my eyes not as an 
adolescent who eats until he cloys, gulping down the 
senses when they are keenest, but with a more deliberate 
taste. And yet for the moment I had restored my senses 
to an acute freshness, while practicing the melancholy 
ritual of enjoyment, knowing it would not last. At times 
it seemed enough merely to watch her pass across the 
room. She had a dressing gown, I remember, of some 
thin blue stuff over pink, which clung to her or fell 


o4 HA ME F0% EVIL 

away as she walked, confusing the eye with the delicate 
change of color. Out from under it moved her little 
feet. Usually I was aware only of their positive out- 
ward thrusts. But one day my eyes fastened on them to 
enjoy their singularity. I saw the slippers she wore, 
woven leather of gold and silver gilt, sink into the deep 
new nap of the rug. The slippers were old and tar- 
nished. Suddenly, as if I might defend her against this 
warning of our predicament, I took her in my arms and 
held her fiercely. 

"Darling," she cried. "Don't." 

It took me several seconds for her appeal to register. 
I freed her slowly and sank back into my chair, listless 
and oppressed. 

I do not want to leave the impression, certainly it 
would be a false one, that I did nothing but loll in lux- 
urious fashion with my wife. I managed some work 
of my own, in my study, and I attended to the farm 
business. This last now took less time. I went to the 
fields only half as much, which was due in part to my 
better knowledge of the farm's routine and to what I 
might expect of the tenants. But most of this extra 
time came from Johnny's frequent appearance about 
the house. He seemed to take an interest in our venture 
and a genuine liking for Ellen. He had managed some 
way to get her a girl to help in the kitchen and without 
saying a word added the care of the apartment to that 
of the study. Seeing him more frequently allowed me 
to dispose of details of farm business which ordinarily 
would have taken me out. 



One evening about milking time he came up to tell 
me the cows had got out. There were few fences on the 
place. I had not been able to get wire or posts ; we had 
done the best we could with patching up, but good eat- 
ers, and they always make good milkers, will push 
through an old fence to greener stuff on the other side. 
The tale he had to tell was of an irate neighbor. The 
man, a Swede, and amiable enough himself but domi- 
nated by a wife who stood very much on her rights, had 
found the cows in his alfalfa. It was time to milk and 
the Swede had impounded the herd. Johnny suspected 
the Swede's wife had her eye on the extra milk, so noth- 
ing would do but I must go and free our stock. 

In my haste I was well into the yard before I discov- 
ered I had forgotten my hat. Johnny glanced politely 
but significantly at my head. I at once turned around 
and, thinking fast, remembered I had left it on a chair 
in my office. It is a peculiarity of mine to dislike hats, 
an oddity which goes unnoticed in the opportunism of 
urban life. In the country, however, for a man of my 
station to go about the place uncovered, which I fre- 
quently did, made me seem odd enough to my neighbors, 
almost an outlander, at the least a man of eccentric 
habits and therefore of doubtful consequence. To go 
abroad in such a state of undress, on so formal and 
delicate a matter, would have put me in a highly dis- 
advantageous position for the business which pressed 
for settlement. 

So I hurried upstairs to the study. How little a man 
knows what he will find when he seeks. The moment I 



stepped into the room I felt a change come over it, a 
sudden drop, as if all the air had fled out of it. I was 
the only solid thing left, as heavy as marble and gross 
as lead, the center of a vacuum into which, on the in- 
stant, a stillness rushed, impalpable, impenetrable, and 
charged with the threat of an unnamable evil. The evil 
was not long in defining itself. How I knew it, or when 
it became clear, I cannot say, but I felt I was being 
watched by unseen eyes. I felt what all feel who suffer 
such exposure, the terrible compulsion to confront it. 
I knew exactly, with the sixth sense which warns, the 
direction of the intrusion : the north window above the 
outside stairway. I stood in a direct line of its view. 
Between me and it stood a desk. Casually I strolled 
forward and cunningly pretended to search among the 
papers which littered the desk's top; and then slowly, 
without moving my head, I raised my eyes. I brought 
them up until they reached the height at which I 
thought to find whatever I had to meet. I met nothing 
but an uninterrupted view of the encroaching dusk. At 
eye level the window lights were as transparent as 
glass can be. 

But yet I was not freed. The same pull of that mys- 
terious tension, fluid as water, strong as gut, drew my 
eyes yet upward. And there at the very top of the win- 
dow, just out from the edge of one of the blinds which 
had blown to, I saw a face. It pressed against the pane 
in passionate anguish, its nose crushed white and its 
eyes, as limpid as a hawk's and dark as sin, leveled upon 

mine. I did not waver. I gave it back as straight a stare 



as it gave me. And then into my stare it vanished. It 
was there : it was not there, so sudden do these intrud- 
ers complete their visitations. But it lasted the strokes 
my heart beat out the world's dark rhythm, an interval 
long enough for me to know all I had to know. Although 
the evening was rapidly falling, I saw as brightly as 
in a vision, with an unimpeachable certainty, that the 
face belonged to the visitor I had first met in the gal- 
lery's arch. But the horrible discovery, which attested 
to the rapid advance in our relationship lay just in the 
stare he gave me and I gave back. Whatever he sought, 
whatever his business there, it was not with me. It 
comes back, as I recount it, with all the immediacy of 
the actual experience — it comes back in the intimacy I 
was made to feel with him. When his glance left mine 
to travel over the room, I was ignored as if I did. not 
exist, or as if I were so deep in his purpose as to be his 
other self. It was this affront which banished the 
shock of this second encounter and sent me flying out 
of the room to overtake him before he could vanish — 
this and the knowledge that he had come there to do 
harm. I arrived on the back stairs in less than five sec- 
onds, but the stranger -was nowhere to be seen. 

The stairway made a curve which brought it under 
the shelter of the kitchen porch. Down the stairs I 
bounded, but he was gone. I felt no relief at this but 
anger that a second time he had escaped me. For form's 
sake I searched the back premises, I remounted the 
stairs and took a farther view. There were shrubs and 
outhouses and the old garden wall, behind which he 



could have hidden, but it came to me in that moment of 
search that he was not to be found in any such places. I 
drew out of the deep knowledge of the experience that 
I was the key to what he sought. I was the door through 
which he must pass to his loathsome desire. When I 
understood this, I was possessed of the calm, almost the 
comfort, which follows the dread of the unknown threat 
at last brought out and channelized. 

Now that I knew my adversary, for it never occurred 
to me that he could be other than this, I decided to study 
him. This brought the impulse to see how he had so 
easily placed himself at the point of vantage to see into 
the room. The chimney narrowed at the level of the 
floor. I stepped upon it and with my hand on the blind 
peered around, just as I had seen him do. I found that 
my face fell a good foot below the face I had seen, but 
it evidently was high enough to frighten Johnny, who 
had at that moment come into the room, no doubt to see 
what had delayed me. I saw him stop in his tracks as 
I had stopped, and stare just as I had stared. His face 
could not pale, but it looked overlaid with a thin film of 
wood ashes. By that I could measure the degree of his 
fright. He turned on his heel and fled the room. I got 
down in time to meet him. 

"Tore God, Mister Brent," he said, "what ails 

"What ails all men," I said, enjoying in my grim way 
the little scene about to be enacted. 

"It ain't dat," he came back at me more vigorously 
than I had ever known him to. 



"It's not, Johnny?" I returned with just a shade of 

"You ain't hongry, and you ain't daid." 

"No, I ain't hongry and I ain't dead, but what would 
you say if I told you I had met, eye to eye, one foot 
above where you saw my face, pressing against the 
glass, in pain and in desire, the one thing more drawing 
than hunger, the only thing as irrevocable as death?" 

"Yes, sir," he said, his eyes opened to the yellow 
balls, and unfocused, like one aroused in the middle of 
the night. 

"Why don't you ask me what it is? Don't you want 
to know?" 

"What it ?" he asked gruffly. His voice measured the 
strength of his emotion, strong enough, and that was 
strong indeed, to make him forget the amenities. 

"Fate," I said. 

I could see his relief as his body relaxed. But he was 
still not quite reassured. He did not know the word, 
but he thought it might disguise a more homely terror 
he would be able to recognize. His shoulders leaned 
slightly forward. "What do hit look like ?" he asked. 

"What does it look like?" I paused for the pure 
pleasure of it. "The terror of the deep." 

"Yessir, but can you handle it?" 

"I will know that perhaps too late." 

He thought awhile and then with great dignity, re- 
stored to his manners and feeling the security of their 
limits, he said, "Mr. Brent, please sir, would you name 
it to me in your own words ?" 



"You mean, will I make you see it?" 

"I don't rightly know as I wants to see hit. I wants 
to know what you seen." 

"The shape of terror?" 

"Yes, sir. Is hit big as you?" 

"A head taller," I said. "A handsome face but rav- 
ished." I saw him nod. "With deep black eyes, a long 
rangy body, a black round-brimmed hat on his head." 

"Yes, sir, yes, sir," he responded eagerly. 

"Wearing a coat such as . . . such as preachers 

"Yes, sir." 

"And in his hands a staff, not that he needs it to walk 
with . . ." 

"Him need air thing to walk with !" 

"Then you've seen him?" I cried. 

"Seen him ? Sho', I've seed him." 

"Where ? Where ?" I could feel my eyes glow with 

"Why, that's Major Brent," he said and then added 
quietly, "I sees him all the time." 



A knew that sooner or later I 
v would have to have it out with 
C — ^ Johnny. Now that the issue was 
joined I must secure my rear. I must discover just 
where Johnny's loyalty lay. I must know what he saw, 
but more than that, exactly what communication existed 
between him and the former master of The Grove, I 
come right out with it. I do not speak of ghosts or ap- 
paritions, I speak of Major Brent. To give a name to 
evil, if it does nothing else, limits its range and that is 
the beginning of accepting it. A week passed before an 
opportunity presented itself, the last week, as I re- 
member, of July. Johnny had come up to tell me the 
corn and the tobacco had been worked over and to find 
what orders I had to give. We were in my study. I had 
him sit down in the chair opposite my desk. As I opened 
the conversation I was surprised at the calm, matter- 
of-fact tone I assumed. I might have been a doctor in- 
quiring into the nature of a disease. "You must tell 
me, Johnny," I said, "just what you see — and how 

He said rather too quickly, "I don't see nothen no 

I could tell he had foreseen this conference and had 



come with his answers ready. Of course I could not let 
it rest there, although I had already learned by his 
manner to me, a greater deference, one thing I wanted 
to know ; the company I now kept, so he thought, gave 
me a status which assured me I should fear no treach- 
ery from within the citadel. But this was not quite all 
I wanted to know, so I continued, "At what times has 
this visitor to The Grove appeared to you?" 

He did not answer at once, but my eyes bored into 
him and held him locked in their vice. How shall I de- 
scribe my feeling of power at this moment except to say 
I felt ageless ? I held him until at last he spoke as one 
speaks out of sleep, his words bursting in a volley. "In 
de full of the moon." 

"Always so?" 

He nodded carefully. "Just befo'e d' moon change. " 

"Ah," I breathed, and then like a pistol shot, "but 
where ?" 

"Where ere he a mind to." 

"But where in particular?" I insisted. 

He thought awhile, then said, "Sometime he walk de 
fields, or sashay in and out'n the trees at the aidge of the 

I put my arms on the desk and leaned forward. "Did 
you ever see him inside the house ?" 

Cautiously he shook his head. 

"But never to have seen him is no reason to believe 
he doesn't go there ?" 

"He know the way," he said. 

"Does he ever speak?" 



He shook his head again, then after a silence which 
seemed an emptiness rather than a break in time, he 
whispered, "He ain't need to." 

"You mean?" I prompted. 

"I knows what make him walk." 


"He doan rest easy." 

"And why doesn't he rest easy ?" 

"All the meanness he done plague him." 

"Johnny, were you ever scared?" 

"No more'n to make me step light. I knowed I ain't 
done him no harm. I be layen in bed and tereckly I see 
he shadow flicker on the wall. Thar he/ I say. 'I must 
git up. He might need sumpum.' Sally Betts draw the 
quilts over her haid, but I gits up and pulls my clothes 
on. He'll go plunderen around and me followen." 

Johnny stopped talking as if he had said all there 
was to say. But I had not heard all. So I asked, "What 
does he look like he's after?" 

"He look powerful sad. He look lak he druv the 
world away and tryen to git it back with a lump of 

"But what is it really, do you think, he is trying to 

"He know," Johnny said abruptly. 

And that was all I could get out of him. When he 
left, I noted more particularly the niceness of his man- 
ner to me : it was the respect for and the deference to 
one who engages himself against impossible odds. This 
was of course easily explained by the superstitions of 


o4 HA ME F0% EVIL 

all simple people. He as well left me assured on another 
point. I had been fairly certain that Johnny saw no 
more than all those who believe in ghosts see, that is, 
the shadow of their imaginations, filled by old stories, 
myths which grow like moss about the ruin of the cor- 

But this was not what / saw. What I saw, I saw 
alone. I could in no way be complicated by my naive 
attendant. And yet it was clear he would be of use to 
me, for I must have some relief from my unbearable 
knowledge, and he could serve in just this. To shut up 
my mind, never to talk, would drive me beyond my 
strength. Ellen I could not approach. So on this, for 
the time, we parted, I having got from him what I 
wanted and he — well, I must have seemed a proprietor 
of a very singular property, whose lines held matter for 
perilous argument. 




ore and more I felt the need 
to know the particulars of 
Major Brent's past. It was 
not straining credulity to assign to him more than an 
ordinary life. However, I needed some clue, and this 
I knew I could get from Johnny. He had hinted at 
things. I wanted to bring out to the light, or to the 
darkness, of my predicament what lay concealed in his 
mind. At the first opportunity I cornered him. "What," 
I asked, "did you mean when you told me you knew 
what made Major Brent walk?" He returned my stare, 
the only movement in his face the cloudy film which 
closed over his eyes, hiding his humanity behind the 
mask he presented me. And so he stood and so I let him 
stand, in the sure knowledge that he would speak in the 
end, despite the mask, despite the depths of his natural 
and supernatural caution. I had advanced very deeply 
in our relationship, for the magic of words had at last 
put him at my disposal. 

"I done tole you all I knows," he said. 
I knew this was the beginning of more, so I con- 
tinued, to give him the momentum he needed. "Major 
Brent has singled me out, and I must find why. I have 
not turned aside, nor will I. This he suspects and it is 



for this he hates, perhaps fears, me. Whatever his 
power in the place he inhabits, in this world he is as 
helpless as my shadow, unless I make some blunder and 
through carelessness give him the substance he lacks. 
Now that you have spoken of him to me — " I said this 
slowly with great solemnity — "him you will never see 
again." I turned abruptly. "What does he lack that 
he disturbs my peace?" 

Johnny remained as motionless as some black idol, 
with the thick hands bent to the curve of work lying 
blocked out in his lap, but at last he began to talk. The 
words passing his beefy lips came simply and with com- 
passion and with the vast relief of one who disburdens 
himself of a secret too dangerous to keep or to tell, 
except to the muted ears of a culprit about to mount the 
scaffold, where all must be anonymous. In some such 
fashion, I felt, he considered me. 

"The old folks say he always hongry. Hongry bef o'e 
he eat and hongry after he wipe he mouf and belch. He 
wo'e six women out and made husks of his chillurn. 
The boys was windbroke before they knowed what he 
done to'm. When the hands taken out the mules, they'd 
drap in the lot, too tared to wallow. And the boys 'ud 
drap, too tared to eat. But they never studied not 
minden him, and he kept tellen them, if they wanted 
him to give 'em anything, to hold fast to the plow." 
Johnny paused and looked beyond me, then : "Nair one 
of 'm taken time out to marry except the youngest and 
he pa drove him onto the big road. The boys wrinkled 
up, but the Major clicked his heels in the air." 


c^ HA ME F0% EVIL 

"Yes," I said. "What about the daughters?" 

"Miss Euphemy. She war his onliest gal. He never 
give her away. Couldn't find nobody good enough to 
suit him." 

Johnny lifted one hand and lay it heavily over the 
other and seemed to fall into a doze, but I brought him 
out of this subterfuge. "There is something you are 
keeping back," I said. "And Miss Euphemia?" 

"They say she taken to locken him in his room." 
He indicated my study as the place. 

"Why?" I was like an inquisitor. 

"That ain't for me to say." 

I received this rebuke in silence, which I tried to 
make as ominous as possible, and then Johnny cast his 
eyes down and said slowly, reverently, and no louder 
than a whisper, "One day Miss Euphemy called the boys 
to the house and said they pa was too feeble to walk. 
They must carry him to the fields. They lifted him in 
his cheer, with two poles run through it, and him setten 
up in the air dressed like a bridegroom. Them boys was 
already blowed from the day's work, but he had 'm tote 
him through ever' last field on the place. It was sun- 
down when they come to the barley field." He hesitated, 
as if to recollect the exact details of the scene and then 
resumed. "He made them boys put postes in the ground 
and heist him on top of 'm. They swayed on their f eets 
they was so weary, but he didn't offer to let 'm set down. 
He never said nothen for a spell, but just set there and 
looked around. It was a turrible fine year for grain. 
Except for the tobacco the whole place from line to line 


<a kame fo% evil 

was yallow with barley and wheat and oats. And him 
jest setten there looken at hit, until the boys and the 
hands circlen around got nervious, for the sun was nigh 
to drappen. 

" 'Hit's purty and hit's mine/ he say. 'Hit's the pur- 
tiest crop I ever seen at The Grove and the biggest 
yield.' My pa heared him say them words. Then he 
stood up and taken one look around and dropped in his 
cheer. The postes rocked, but didn't nobody come nigh 
to sturdy 'm. It was gitten along towards dark before 
he roused hese'f again. 'Hit's taken me my life to do 
this,' he said. 'The Grove has done the mostest hit can 
ever do. I knowed they was a perfect crop in it. Look 
around you and see it, for you'll never see air other one.' 
The boys looked about 'm f oolishlike, not knowing what 
the old man had in mind. But he warn't long in naming 
hit. He reached in his big pocket and pulled out a sack. 
'Lemuel/ he called. 'Sir/ his son answered like a boy 
and him in his fifties. He pitched him the sack and 
Lemuel caught it. 'Amos/ he said, and Amos stepped 
forward. He pitched him a sack. And then he called 
Josh and Abner and pitched them a sack. 'I'm given 
you each a thousand dollars in gold for your hire. It 
will start you in the world, for this place you will never 
till again. It has reached perfection. It can do no more.' 
He come to a stop and nobody didn't know what to say, 
but he spoke up once more and for the last time. T want 
ever' stalk of grain to fall where it grows and ever hill 
of tobacco to rot where it stands. My everlasting dis- 



pleasure to him that tries to reap what I sowed. Now 
you may take your pay and go.' " 

Johnny's voice stopped. 

"And ..." I said. 

"My pa said the hands slipped away and nair one 
looked back. And the boys stood around like chillurn 
who'd lost their way, and then they left. And my pa 
said he never seen sich a bright light on no old man's 
face. He looked like a body busten out of the creek all 
wet with glory. Then it come to Pa he war the last one 
there. He had to pull his f eets out of the ground to run. 
He said he shet his eyes and run, and when he opened 
'm again the dark had growed out'n the fields and swal- 
lowed up the house. He shuck all night, af eared for day 
to break. He knowed them fields 'ud be bare as he 

"And were they?" 

"Naw, sir. The fields was yallow as butter." 

"And Major Brent?" 

Johnny shook his head. "The cheer sot up 'ar in the 


I thought he would never get it out. 

"It sot up 'ar, plumb empty. And one crow roosten 
on hit's back." 


/johnny had given me the clue I 

( /wanted, but only the clue. I knew I 

J* would have to untangle it. My im- 

v agination whirled on the periphery 

of my predicament. It was not ready to plunge to the 

depths of the center of truth. I deliberately refrained 

from making a premature decision. I drifted, if to 

circle slowly down the narrowing cone may be called 

drifting. There was time, but not too much time, to 

make decisions before the giddy swirl and the plunge 

and the suck. 

The month of August went quietly enough on the 
surface. It was notable for one thing: the last oppor- 
tunity for withdrawal. In the most cleverly conceived 
strategems of doom, whether contrived by man or by 
supernatural powers, there comes a moment when 
escape is possible, a moment of clarity when the strain 
is released by its own tension. The way is always 
opened up by some incident in the daylight world, as 
plain, as restricted as a banker's books, and telling as 
little as do these books about the accounts they record. 
Though they tell little, without the understatement of 
such things as the double entry we would submerge our- 
selves hopelessly in the confusion of the multiple depths 



of our natures. The orderly life of individuals and so- 
ciety depends on the balance between light and dark- 
ness. We perish only when the sun gets jammed at high 
noon or the moon glides forever at the full. The chance 
to withdraw came to us in an offer for the farm. It was 
as plain and direct as that. A mild land boom brought 
a buyer to our remote location. He offered me a modest 
profit over and above all that I had put into The Grove. 
I took this offer to Ellen. 

I found her in the kitchen. Tired of waiting for me 
to help, she had begun doing it over herself. Some way 
she had got together several girls of the neighborhood 
and they were painting the walls. She stepped down at 
my request from a stool, flushed from her work. A 
dash of paint spotted her cheek like a beauty spot. A 
strand of hair had got loose and lay fetchingly over 
her forehead. I saw her, as sometimes happens, with 
the freshness of our first meeting. This sight of her 
brought with it as well the state of mind of our court- 
ship, when the world seemed as giving as the demands 
we would make of it. It was an unhappy vision, for it 
weakened my resolve to retreat. 

We sat on the porch and lighted cigarettes. 

"Isn't it going to be lovely?" she asked. 

"The kitchen?" 

"I've got it all planned. A double sink, shelves on the 
side, on the north end closets for brooms and things, and 
if you could only cut me a window . . ." 

"Before we do all this, I've something to tell you." 

"I know. We haven't the money. But, look, I can 



sell this ring. It's a rather nice one. I've got it all fig- 
ured out. It will just, with careful planning, do what 
I want to do. I'd much rather my kitchen glittered than 
my hand. We don't go anywhere any more." 

"Darling, I've had an offer for the farm." 

"Oh." A pause. "How much?" 

"A small profit." 

"Oh." Another pause. "If it were a lot of money . . ." 

"Of course if we really want to stay here. It's only 
a chance to get out without a loss." 

"Do you want to leave?" she asked. "I had no idea 
such a thought had entered your mind." 

I evaded her question. "I only thought I had got you 
into something tougher than I knew. I'm offering you 
a chance to get out with honor." 

"Don't say me, darling. You got us into something, 
a something I'm rather beginning to like." 

"I must point out," I went on, "the tremendous job 
still ahead." 

She thought for a while. "Well, darling, whatever 
you think we ought to do." 

"You know how I hate to turn loose, but you've been 
rather on my conscience." 

"Why should I be on your conscience?" She looked 
at me frankly. 

Hastily I said, "It's not that altogether. I've doubts 
about myself." 


"Well, I'm not sure I can handle it, that I can, well, 
make you happy here." 



She got up. We strolled out onto the lawn and sat 
under one of the large cedars. Elsewhere in the world 
which is August it was dry. The corn was twisting in 
the fields, the pastures were dusty, and even at night the 
cattle lowed with distress. Everywhere the sun beat 
down in the direct scorching way which only an August 
sun can do — everywhere except on our lawn. There is 
little shade to a cedar but there was plenty of walnut 
and oak to protect the grass. It was hot but there was 
still green for the eye to rest upon. Ellen leaned back 
against the trunk of the cedar. I lay on my back before 

"This is a pleasant place," I said, beguiled by the 
clarity of the sun and the sanity of the physical world, 
when it pauses at recess and its real nature goes out of 
mind. "This is a pleasant place," I repeated. 

"And it can be a fine place," she added. "I acted 
rather badly in the beginning," she went on, "but then 
I was overwhelmed. Now it seems simpler. I am hap- 
pier. It is better for you than the town. There you 
always ran on the exhaustion of nerves. Perhaps in 
time we may have children." 

I put my arms about her waist. "You are the only 
reality," I said. "I don't care if we can't have chil- 
dren. Our life is meaning. Everything else is illusion. 
Nothing must take you away from me." 

Gently she released herself. "Darling, you make me 
a little afraid. Nothing is going to take me away from 

And so it was decided to stay on. As we went back 



to the house, hand in hand, the intruder seemed no more 
threatening than a bad dream after breakfast and 

At the door we were met by the mailman. He had 
a registered letter. I opened and read it. 

"What is it?" Ellen asked. 

"It's from my nephew Moss," I said. "He's being 
sent home from the South Pacific. It doesn't say why." 
I handed her the letter. She glanced through it. 

"He is rather brief, isn't he ?" 

"I hope he is in no trouble," I said. 

"You can never tell what the military will do. Prob- 
ably battle fatigue." And then she said cheerfully, "He 
can help with the house. It will do him good to do a 
little honest work." 

"Yes, yes," I said. "It will do him good. It will do 
us all good to see him." 

But as I went into the house, I carried with me a 
strange feeling of foreboding. 



/fter this I felt we lived just as 
J other people do. The false ro- 
C^m manticism which had landed me 
so blithely into the bramblebush of history tempted me 
with the prospect of success. The actual undertaking 
as opposed to the idea had impressed on me the heroic 
nature of the work and, as with all sagas, the involve- 
ments with the supernatural. My initial encounters 
with the shade of Major Brent, or whatever metamor- 
phosis he had assumed, found me possessed of a cour- 
age I didn't know I had and an exquisite awareness of 
horror whose depths sank below and beyond mortal 
knowledge. The secret awareness that I was no hero 
I buried. In the same grave I put the fear that my cour- 
age was unequal to the perils of my situation. In the 
blind panic which was my state of mind but which 
seemed, because of its long duration, a clear, lofty ob- 
jectivity, I banished Major Brent to his proper habitat 
and forbade him to trespass again. My first presenti- 
ment that all was not right with my nephew Moss faded 
into the picture of him as my heir, and I longed for his 
arrival. It seems rather complicated even now, but it 
all came from my talk with Ellen and her desire to live 
at The Grove, which meant of course that all would be 



well with us and my love for her. I don't think that I 
understood how my original interest in the place had 
shifted its emphasis. I still thought of myself in all sin- 
cerity as occupied with the difficult problems of regen- 
eration. Our personal problems I took to be merely a 
variant on the central theme. But actually my interest 
now lay almost entirely and rather desperately in mak- 
ing The Grove seem attractive to Ellen. I was occupied 
with the usual American bourgeois habit, in spite of my 
ideas, in spite of my very principles, of giving my wife 
the comforts, the setting, the status equal to my love for 
her. In the beginning, when she went to pieces, the ruin 
of our love seemed imminent and my manhood threat- 
ened. Now that I see things so clearly I am certain that 
a loss of manhood was involved, for had I not caught 
from the infested air that disease of all latter-day 
Americans — to fail in a material way is to fail in man- 

In such fashion I allowed myself to be taken off 
guard. There are no other words for it. What devious 
ways does not an imperfect apprehension take us? 
Had I been put on record before a jury of sensible men 
— I do not say peers, for where in the sweepings of 
this continent could the peer to such extravagant in- 
dividualism have been found — and had I been asked in 
the presence of the twelve, Can you do it? I at least 
would have paused and assessed the odds for what they 
were worth, for I am a man of vision. But how we blot 
out in the gloom of mad endeavor the light which by 
exposing will thwart us ! 



And so it was, I say again in all honesty, I retired to 
my study where I worked every day and often far into 
the night at reviews and essays to get the material for 
our little campaign. I had had to borrow on the prop- 
erty to add to the sale of Ellen's ring, for it took a great 
deal to keep her in the frenzy of her work. She handled 
laborers better than I and, more quickly than I had 
dreamed, managed to finish the kitchen, the dining 
room, and get a start on the lower hallway. I worked 
confidently and scarcely felt the pressure of our eco- 
nomic situation. And yet of course it was money I had 
on my mind, so much so that I didn't dare think of it, 
lest I think to what ruin and disaster its lack would 
bring us. 

And money did begin to come in, slowly at first in 
steady small sums, enough for the household expenses 
and a little laid by against the interest on the mortgage 
whose payment drew nearer with each ticking of the 
clock in the hall below. I raced my mind against the 
swinging of that round brass sun. It became an obses- 
sion with me. There endured such a synchronization 
between my mind and the clock's stroke that so long as 
I worked I could not hear it. But let me grow idle, or 
rest, it struck off with its impervious beat precious time 
forever lost. I now think I must have been a little mad. 
I dared not look the timepiece in the face but always 
hurried by with averted eye ; yet I could never go fast 
enough. Once I thought by ignoring I had silenced it, 
but it stopped me in the doorway through which I fled. 
If only once it would miss a beat, but the unvarying reg- 



ularity of the tick, the swing, and the tock drove me to 
desperate and inhuman work. Ellen appealed to me, 
saying I would be ill. Not even she could divert me. I 
could point to the need and the proofs in the form of the 
checks I showed her. What I could not point to were 
the terribly inhuman odds I strove against, and I do not 
speak of material things, but of those regions where 
time is unknown. 

In no circumstances would I have broached the sub- 
ject of those regions. The strangest comment on my 
state of mind was the way I was able to shut it out of 
my own thoughts. Its return came with the shock al- 
most of a betrayal. I must have been asleep, how long 
I have no way of knowing, except that it was well after 
midnight — I had heard the stroke of that hour. My 
arms lay on the desk. They had disarranged the papers 
there and from the night sweat several pages of my 
novel still clung damply to my flesh. All I know is I 
found myself sitting erect and wide awake in the pres- 
sure of that alien and frigid atmosphere I had come to 
know and dread. My eyes were blurred from too much 
use of the tight sleep of the overtired, but they were 
clear enough to see through the open door the loath- 
some form of my guest. He hovered in the doorway to 
our apartment and I saw his left hand fumble as if he 
were trying to find the knob. So still was he, except 
for the purpose in that hand and arm, swollen to my 
view out of all proportion to the rest of his form, that 
I had the sickening illusion of the hypnotic sway of a 
snake practicing at the keyhole. My alarms and my 



disgust were equal. These overbore any thought of 
fear or courage. I was merely drawn to go forward 
and challenge him. 

I arose from the chair and it made a long creaking 
sound of pain. With this sound in my head I strode 
onto the gallery and stopped within a few paces of the 
shadowy figure whose back was still turned to me. But 
let it not be understood that the figure was in any way 
vague. The frightful presence could have been no 
clearer had it been day at its brightest hour. Slowly the 
hand withdrew from the keyhole and the arm, so easily 
did it move, floated to his side. By this I knew he had 
become aware of me and, feeling an exalted elation at 
this recognition, I waited for his next move. I waited 
in the alarm of the tremendous advance he had made in 
the freedom of the house, for only now, at a range so 
close I could have touched him, did some part of the 
meaning of his persistence grow clear to me. But I 
had no leisure to examine it. He had turned. 

He had turned to face me. I did not waver nor fall 
back but, all taut, met him. At once, for there was no 
mistaking it, I sensed the change in his bearing to me. 
I was no longer ignored as I had been in that encounter 
in our study, where his examination of the room in my 
presence gave me the queer feeling that he took me for 
an accomplice. There was none of this. It was clear 
now that he recognized in me the sole obstacle to his 
desire. I got it all from the hollow depths of his stare. I 
remember nothing of the features, only his look of 
hatred and malevolence which somehow included him- 



self as well as me. These are hit-or-miss words. There 
is nothing in the human catalogue of feeling which I 
can draw on for analogy. I knew this : his appearance 
which I already felt too much to bear grew yet more 
intense. It enveloped the space we stood in, or what 
became space some moments afterward, for here again 
I stumble over words. The air, if air it was, made a 
chill and a silence in which nothing existed. Even I felt 
no true sense of being. We were isolated in some inter- 
mediate world. Not a sound penetrated from the night 
outside it, where the actual darkness disclosed its im- 
perfections before the true image enveloping me. 
Though in the world I was shut off from it, or to draw 
a finer distinction, that part of the world where I was 
had been usurped by another. The chill was the dry 
chill of absolute aridity and the silence a silence of end- 
less reaches where no sound was or ever would be. ' 

Then my senses whirled under the impact of meta- 
morphosis. I felt myself shift ground before a blast of 
heat. Perhaps I cried out, for the sudden contrast of 
what went before and what came after gave me a mo- 
ment of pain. When I recovered myself, I saw that I 
was alone on the gallery, on a sultry August night, with 
not a breath of air stirring. 




had barely got my equilibrium 
back before I received another 
shock, coming so hard on the 
first that the impact of the second seemed only a con- 
tinuation of the first. It was the revelation of the pur- 
pose behind the apparition's return. The shock was the 
sickening effect this intelligence had on me. It surged 
through me with the clarity of euphoria — his position 
at the door to the apartment where Ellen slept, the in- 
tention in that ghastly hand. I know now that even at 
the time of his first appearance I nurtured some such 
fear, never daring, because of the insupportable impli- 
cations it contained, to bring it up for candid inspec- 

There was no doubt now about its being full blown. 
I knew, even though I cannot tell you why I knew, that 
I had prevented some terrific act of violence, some 
dreadful adventure in which space and matter were 
involved. I suspected Major Brent as the agent, per- 
haps out of a devouring need, the self-appointed agent 
of doom. The word I know has lost in the soilure of too 
many tongues its meaning. This meaning I now re- 
store. Say the word aloud. Believe you speak it for the 
first time and you will understand the terror of my 



comprehension. You will understand my anxiety and 
reluctance to rush through the door and take Ellen in 
my arms, for, alas, I am earth-bound and subject to all 
the laws of matter. To defend what I loved against a 
force I could never reach — this was the excruciating 
nature of my torture. Had I even now lost her ? Major 
Brent had vanished, but Ellen? I felt I had been in 
time, but could I — always this uncertainty — could I be 
sure? There was but one way to find out. Open the 
door and go forward into the room. This I did. 

Noiselessly the door swung inward and, dark though 
it was, I could feel myself pale at what I saw : Ellen 
swaying just inside, in the nightgown she had worn on 
our wedding night, her eyes open but still asleep. The 
gown moved lazily against her body, blown by the sul- 
try air which the door in its passage had stirred. She 
gave a little gasp and stepped back as my hands grasped 
her. And so we stood for an instant as I tried to speak. 
What came from my mouth sounded like the cry of an 
animal in pain. At last I said the useless words, "Dar- 
ling, what are you doing here ?" 

She said rather wanly, "I thought I heard you call. 
I must have been asleep." 

Gently, as one is careful of an invalid, I picked her 
up and laid her upon our bed. As I fumbled at the but- 
tons of my shirt, she said, "Dear I've had the most 
awful dream." 

"Yes, I know," I said. With great care I tried to 
calm my voice. 

"But how can you know ?" she asked. 



I did not answer. The buttons would not undo. 

"Oh," she said and her voice was clearer. "What 
made you tear your shirt. You've none too many." 

I mumbled something about the dark. I could not 
speak, I could not quiet the great perturbation in my 
heart until I lay beside her and had her body in my 
arms. Nothing but this old substantial truth could re- 
store me. 

At last I was beside her and she received me. Calmed, 
I lay on my back in the empty heaviness of release. Only 
our fingers now entwined. Out of a great distance she 
said, "I thought you had forgotten." 

"Forgotten?" I repeated. 

"That this is our anniversary." 

I hedged. "How could you think that?" 

"You've seemed so . . . well, so absorbed. At times 
I feel you don't know I'm here." 

"You know what I've been doing. How I've had to." 

"That's just it. Do you have to be alone all the time ?" 

I shifted ground. "Aren't you ..." I hesitated. 

"Happy?" she interposed and then her voice trailed 
off. When she spoke again, she seemed to speak out of 
some private truth. "Happiness. Oh, I don't know that 
that matters now." 

I pretended to be calm, but what agonizing considera- 
tions laid waste my peace of a few moments ago ! My 
voice must have sounded queer to her. It sounded queer 
enough to me as I said, "Happiness doesn't matter?" 

"It's not that it doesn't matter. But there ai*e other 



"Other things ?" My voice was casual, except for a 
slight tremor. 

She turned and said with a kind of puzzled despera- 
tion, "I know you've got your writing to do, but, dar- 
ling, you mustn't leave me alone so much." 

"I shall never let you out of my sight again." 

"I didn't mean all that, Henry." 

"What did you mean then?" 

She answered me in her own way, and I felt the 
pathos of her sad little gallantry, for what once had 
quieted all needs, answered all questions, had become 
itself the dark field of ultimate questioning. My head 
was still whirling with the various possibilities when at 
last her fingers fell loose from mine and I noticed the 
first misty smudge of day slide up the gap in the flow- 
ered curtains. In this faint light I looked at her pale 
lovely face, now closed to me in sleep. Had it closed 
to me forever? Had I, after all, been too late? Did the 
dissembling mask of sleep contain what I would find 
when the tale was all told ? I probed into my conscious- 
ness, but it only gave back the wonder of my anguish 
and my desperate need. I longed for the future instant 
by instant, the flash of vision which would reveal my 
condemnation or my reprieve. I got the knowledge of a 
duller thing, the unhurried, unvarying lockstep which 
is time. If to this prison I resigned myself, it was not 
entirely without hope. Its restraining power restrained 
also another. 



A must have dropped off, lying at 
y her side, for I found myself sit- 
C — ^ ting up in bed, my heart in a 
stifled pounding from the sudden wrench to conscious- 
ness and the sense that I had missed some terribly im- 
portant engagement. I saw that I was alone. The 
curtains were still drawn, but the quality of light shin- 
ing through the flowered figures told me how much of 
the morning was already spent. Hard on this came the 
awareness that while I slept another had had the chance 
to enjoy the freedom of The Grove with that insolent 
display of familiarity which made me so long to throttle 
him. My need to do him physical violence was great 
and my impotence so apparent that, for a moment, my 
imagination gave body to that density of air which 
he assumed at the demand of infamous longing. 

I threw on my clothes and rushed from the room. 
The hours I had been sleeping Ellen had been un- 
guarded. What disaster might not come of it, if once 
he got through to her, I dared not think. She had felt 
influences. Of this I was sure, but I was equally sure 
that I had so far saved her an actual encounter. 

Once outside, in the gallery which lay between the 
study and the apartment, I paused an instant to decide 



which way to go. Never had I as now understood the 
full terror and meaning of time. To waste even a 
breath in a false start might be to lose all in the general 
waste of eternity. Short as it was, my hesitation al- 
lowed me to see through the open door to my study that 
someone was sitting at my desk. I advanced and found 
my nephew Moss, completely at ease in my chair, after 
the manner of young men profligate of that one gift 
they will spend the rest of their lives regretting. "Have 
you seen Ellen ?" I asked. To this day I am unsure what 
I got as answer, but my ears caught the phrase, "In the 
flower garden." Intuitively I knew I had the right di- 
rection. With no further greeting or welcome, I rushed 

The garden lay to the rear of my study. There was 
a stretch of lawn and then the wall. In other days one 
could have looked down into the garden, but it was so 
overgrown I did not pause but right off swung down 
the winding way. I had been inside it once, on my first 
visit when I came with the idea of buying The Grove. 
Intuitively I understood the temptations it would have 
for me and afterward stayed away. The degree to 
which a farm's economy can be brought is best judged 
by the flower garden. To have it at all is a luxury and 
evidence of discipline and sound management, for the 
garden needs attention always when the crops can least 
spare a hand from the fields. And of course it bespeaks 
that leisure which is the supreme attainment of civi- 
lized habits. I go as far, even, as to say that in the great 
ages the formal garden reflects the last refinements of 



the social pattern and, indeed, is the commentary that 
the age makes on itself. For what was Versailles laid 
out but to inter the feudality of France? Or what is 
any eighteenth-century garden but the very will of 
fashion, with its geometrical pattern, the clean little 
walks between the low, well-trimmed borders, that su- 
perior artifice where even the flowers seem denatural- 
ized ? But the house defines another truth. If it is old, 
it contains the whole tradition. One does not make a 
house. A house grows and as it grows binds together 
the continuous past. Because I understood this, until 
I had house and land well in hand, I knew it were best 
to stay away from the place I now approached. 

The lock and chain had rusted together about the 
gate. But this was no hindrance. The wall had many 
gaps, where the brick had fallen into rubbish or had 
been robbed for various uses about the farm. Very 
quietly I pushed aside a straggly and overgrown box- 
bush, stepped over and was inside. For a moment I 
forgot why I was there. The garden was not large, 
yet it was not small, nor was it exactly as I had remem- 
bered it. I had had the image of an old-fashioned gar- 
den but not the perfect symmetry I now found. Flowers 
and shrubs and weeds were all overgrown in a common 
tangle, and luxuriantly overgrown from the extraordi- 
nary richness of the ground, but beneath this wilderness 
the plan was clear. It had been laid out in a circle, with 
a round springhouse upon a mound as its hub. A ser- 
pent's head, carved of stone, rose up out of the little 
brick house, with jaws widespread and dripping water. 



Once the water must have poured, for there was still 
evidence of the conduit circling the beds, each group of 
plots increasing in size as they approached the enclosing 
wall. And just here was the final touch of art. The 
wall, hexagonal in shape, softened but did not alter the 
meaning of the design. I stood enthralled and a little 
dizzy from the impact of the mind able to conceive this, 
the utter daring, the brilliant imagination, the Satanic 
pride of it. I saw afresh with what an adversary I had 
to do and again, when I looked to the resources I had, I 
very nearly gave in to despair. But no matter what the 
odds the soldier's response to danger is professional — 
he acts. I was a kind of soldier : I remembered why I 
was there. Swiftly I searched the undergrowth. I 
looked with a sharper eye and what I saw wrenched me 
for a moment from my obsession. The garden was a 
dump heap. Rotten tin cans, broken bottles, rags, half a 
fireback, all littered the place. There were piles of 
ashes, pocked with bits of charcoal beaten to the surface 
by countless rains, and a thousand other objects of 
refuse tossed anywhere about. In the midst of this I 
saw Ellen. 

She was on the ground, in a cool white muslin frock, 
weeding one of the walkways. She did not see me as 
her head was bent to her work, and I was careful not 
to interrupt her. There was about her the air of inno- 
cence one thinks of as surrounding the sacrificial vic- 
tim. Her hair had been brought up on her head, and 
I admired with the sweet sense of possession the purity 



of the lines of her neck, bent slightly around and down. 
Then my heart made that plunge of alarm, the infallible 
awareness of danger. It was all in the fierce rapidity 
of her hands and, in spite of the illusion of composure, 
a too rapt attention to what she did. All around her 
rose piles of weed and grass, neatly raked for the bar- 
row. My gaze widened, startled at the amount of the 
garden she had cleaned, obviously more than one morn- 
ing's work. I dared not reckon the number of hours, 
else I should have had to ask how she had done it at all. 
My wonderment grew into a question, Why had she 
made no mention of this to me ? 

So I was warned but my comprehension was slow 
to focus. I found myself, of necessity, returning to her 
hands. They were my clue. Then as I watched, I saw 
them quicken as though she felt behind her the shadow 
of the taskmaster. The tension in her frail body was 
painful to see, and it all drew to a point in the speed of 
her fingers. Exquisite, fragile, they drove at the dirt 
under some dreadful compulsion. I took all this in as I 
took in the certain knowledge that another watched as 
well as I. A sodden chill rolled out of the depths of the 
undergrowth, swirling in its circular track until it 
caught us up in the logic of its motion. All sounds of 
the bright morning fell away and, as they perished, so 
did my apprehension of the alien air I breathed. I was 
no more conscious of the fearful energy which under- 
lay it than I would be aware, walking down a country 
lane, of the world revolving in space. The sick feeling 



I had had of violation, my helpless estrangement before 
it, now entirely disappeared. It was as one equal to all 
occasions that I slowly turned my head until, at last, it 
came to rest facing the garden's center. I paused to 
sharpen my will. I paused ; then I lifted my eyes, brick 
by brick, up the slimy springhouse wall. 



A got to the study as soon as I could 
y and that meant, of course, as soon 
C — S as I could get Ellen out of the gar- 
den and safely into the house. I shut the door and 
leaned against it for support. I had kept up my front 
in the garden. Only now did I give in to the after- 
effects of my trial of nerve. 

"He has got through to her," I gasped to Moss. 

There had always been great sympathy between my 
nephew and me, but never did it show to better pur- 
pose than in this, my tacit appeal for help. He con- 
fused me by no stupid response, no tiresome questions. 
He merely leaned forward in his chair and waited for 
more. The mere sight of him, the wonderful feeling 
that I would no longer stand alone, this knowledge 
and the privacy of my room, restored somewhat my 
equilibrium. I had retired to my citadel and my faith- 
ful seneschal was at my side; or to draw a sharper 
figure, my heir. 

So it came about that what I had to divulge was 
given and received as a matter of family concern. It 
was the ease and grace of his reception that gave me 
the firm ground I needed, the familiar rapport which 
usually passes between father and son. Whatever the 



virtues of Moss Senior, and he was reputed to have 
many in certain circles, they did not thrive in his 
dealings with his son. My brother lived in the happily 
simple world where all things have a price, and the 
better the bargain the better the price, which is all 
very well, I suppose, if you don't drive bargains for 
the affection of your son. I never thought I would 
have sympathy for such limitations, but I fairly blessed 
them now as I quickly sketched for Moss the history 
of what had happened up to his appearance at The 
Grove. The boy's reception of my tale was so keen 
and ready it gave me the illusion of talking aloud to 
myself. "And so you see," I wound up, "I have failed, 
miserably failed." 

"Failed?" I rather felt than heard the question, so 
softly did it drift my way. 

"Yes, failed. To stand between Major Brent and 
his odious purpose." 

"What is . . ." 

"What is his purpose? It is also his desire." I 
fairly spat these out, so fresh was his fearsome image 
in my mind. 

"And that?" 

"I don't quite know. Oh, that I did !" I finished with 
a groan of perplexity. "I do know that it has to do 
with Ellen. Of this I am certain as I am certain of 
you, there, in my chair." 

"How do you know?" 

"How? How? I saw." 

The shadow of a question crossed my nephew's 



eyes. It was plain I needed to be more circumstantial. 
"Not an hour ago, there in the garden, I beheld him 
with my eyes, like an evil smoke but also a solid, hover- 
ing above the springhouse. He filled my eyes and 
then went, like mist drying, down through the rotten 

"Did . . ." 

"Did Ellen see? No, but she felt. She knew he was 


"I could tell by the look on his devilish face." 

"But if she didn't see?" 

"But I saw. The eager gleam, the contaminating 
look of his triumph." And I added in a low voice, at 
the marvel of it, "And it reached out like a solid thing 
and touched her. It was then I could stand no more. 
He disappeared." At the thought of this I fell silent, 
trembling before the memory of this hateful appear- 
ance. And as I looked across at Moss, I could see 
that it had welled up into my eyes by the reflection 
from his. More smoothly, for hatred is like harden- 
ing a stick by fire, I developed the line of my reason- 
ing. "I had thought I stood between — he will not 
hold up to me, you see, he has his limitations too — 
but what I learned today is that some traffic has ex- 
isted between them and for longer than I can know. 
What she did, what she was, in the garden showed 
le. And I have other cause to believe ..." 

"You mean?" 

"We had a chance to sell the farm. She demurred, 



after having pleaded to get away. Now what could 
make her change her mind so suddenly?" 

And then I heard, "But how can he get at her?" 
"By making her want to come to him." 
"But how? An apparition to a mortal being." 
"It is one of the oldest stories. And who knows 
what promises he makes over the invisible lines of 
his communication — enough," I added grimly, "to 
make her want to know more." 

"Then if she wants to know more . . ." 
"His spell is not quite wound up? Good!" I almost 
shouted. "That may be our way out. We must hold to 
that. If we can prevent another meeting . . . We must 
watch, you and I, every hour of the day and night." 
"I will watch at night," I heard. 
"And I by day." This gleam of hope brought me 
up sharp to the practical way of carrying out our plan. 
I asked, "Does Ellen know you are here?" 

He shook his head slowly and, for a moment, his 
eyes seemed to withdraw. With uncanny intuition I 
understood that he did not want her, or anyone, to 
know he was here. This brought me up to his own 
mysterious situation. His cryptic letter and then, with- 
out warning, his arrival. I looked more closely, berat- 
ing myself for a too great preoccupation with my own 
affairs, and saw his travel-stained uniform, the dust 
and grime of the battlefield still on it, the pale look of 
strain and the jagged scar on his forehead running 
back into his head. I could not tell how far because 
of the blackness and the thickness of his hair. 




I saw at once how painful any questions of mine 
would be. Matter-of-factly I took it up where he had 
left off. "I will put you in the old office out there in 
the yard. Johnny will bring your food. No one — " I 
emphasized this — "no one need know you are here. It 
is better that way." 

On this we parted. I arose for my watch. It was 
understood that he would keep the study until night, 
when his would begin. 



/ll blessings are mixed. So I felt 
V when I had the leisure to think 
C — ' i how the tension would slacken 
now that Moss had come. But this very letting up 
gave me time to think, and for the first few days my 
thoughts were equally divided between my wife and 
nephew. I cannot tell what a wonderful comfort he 
was unless I also tell what marred this comfort. If I 
had let myself go, I should have gone as far as alarm 
at his ambiguous appearance, his noncommittal silence 
about why he was here and not with his outfit. I gave 
him every chance to explain himself. I hinted at battle 
fatigue, -at a well-deserved leave. I even went so far as 
to open a discussion of psychiatry as practiced officially 
by the Army, saying what an advance it had made 
over the old brutal methods which reduced human 
performance to the extremes of cowardice and brav- 
ery. But no matter how subtly I threw out these 
different leads not one of them did he take. He would 
smile, he would listen politely, he would make some 
general observation — nothing more. I was forced to 
come back to my original impression : he was hiding 

at The Grove, but whether because of something he 



had done or something he feared might be done to 
him, I had to leave undecided. 

This I was willing to do. After all he was here, I 
needed him, I felt surer somehow of withstanding 
what there was to withstand, in spite of the rapid and 
perilous advance of danger, which I never let out o£ 
my mind for a moment. It lay with me like a cold 
spring at the bottom of a pool. On the surface all was 
warm and even languid, but one had only to dive to 
know the shock of the chill beneath. I suppose I would 
have cracked up but for the respite I got from floating 
in the lukewarm upper surface. It seemed that every- 
body at The Grove conspired to keep me at ease, Ellen, 
Moss, and Johnny. I was touched at the way Johnny 
tried to rise to the occasion. When I told him the new 
duties I entrusted to him, he accepted them with under- 
standing. He cleaned out the office and set up a bed, 
pretending he needed it for a storehouse. But the most 
remarkable instance of his tact showed itself in the 
way he met Moss. I had brought Johnny up to the 
study, first warning him that no one must know that 
my nephew was there. I told him that only he and I 
knew it, that even Miss Ellen did not know, and that 
if by any chance it got out, I would know who had been 
indiscreet. I made no open threat, of course, but my 
manner was as grave and ominous as I could make it. 
This, I knew, would leave its impression, for Johnny 
had conceived a tremendous respect for the possibili- 
ties of my nature. Moss was standing by the book- 
case, .reading the titles there. I said, "Lad, this is 




Johnny. He will look after your needs." Johnny gave 
a quick glance to the corner where Moss was, stiffened 
slightly — only I would have noticed it — and then stood 
there with respectful dignity, hat in hand, looking not 
at but just to the side of Moss's position. In any other 
situation I would have smiled at his cunning. Nobody 
could trap him into admission of seeing anything, 
and yet his stance told me he was aware of every- 

Moss turned, smiled in his charming way, and 
nodded; then he went back to the books. I never saw 
a more difficult situation handled by both parties with 
greater ease or discretion. My affection for them in- 
creased enormously and it became the seal to our com- 
mon aim. It led me, without more ado, to probe farther 
into the last days of Major Brent on earth. Johnny 
had told me much, but there were gaps in the infor- 
mation and there was, as always, the confusing veil 
of legend. This I must strip away. "Monstrous on 
earth as in the void he inhabits," I began by way of 
soliloquy, for speaking the word often leads to truth 
which escapes the silent inquiry. Johnny heard but 
did not understand. Moss showed by his attention, a 
deeper stillness, that he listened. "For was it not mon- 
strous in him to make such an end," I went on, "dis- 
possessing his inheritors and bringing his daughter 
barren to her shroud, and for himself committing or 
permitting that last affront to tradition, the unmarked 
grave. Does anyone know where he lies ?" 

I put this to Johnny direct. I waited in the hiatus 



my question made and watched the bare shake of his 
head. "Ain't no grave." 

"But he didn't just lie out like a heathen and let the 
crows pick his bones. Whatever his wish, whatever 
his need, he died in a Christian land." 

"Yessir," Johnny solemnly said, "I knows of some 
Christians over towards Oak Grove." 

"The authorities would not permit it. There must 
be the record. The record is the state's evidence of 
self-perpetuation, the link between the past and the 
future." I paused to change the tone of voice. "There 
was bound to be investigation." 

I waited again. Johnny cast his eyes before him, 
covertly in the direction of Moss, showing his reluc- 
tance to talk about Major Brent in the presence of any 
witness, no matter how well recommended he came. 
But finally he said, "The High Sheriff knocked at Miss 
Euphemy's do'." 

"Ah, hah. That's what I have been waiting to hear." 

"And she come to de do'." 


"But hit taken right smart rappen on de do' to 
bring her. The High Sheriff nigh wo'e out his hat 
fanning. She opened de do' wide and shaded her 
eyes . . . so." Johnny lifted the stiff black fingers to 
his forehead and squinted as one might do who looks 
into smoke. "She looked over the High Sheriff's lef 
shoulder, she looked past his face, she looked over his 
right shoulder, and then she shet the do'." 

That, as far as I could gather, marked the extent 



to which the law ever went in attempting to implicate 
Miss Euphemia. The law must show cause and motive. 
The keepers of the peace must have felt that there 
was in Major Brent's act a threat to the general peace. 
But what had they to go on ? An old man, by his own 
will, drives his sons away and, again by his own will, 
with witnesses to the fact, remains alone in the middle 
of his fields. And is never seen more. His very act was 
a symbol of social violence, but you can't bring a sym- 
bol into court. And deeding the land to Miss Euphemia 
was further proof of his intention, but the deed had 
been on record a year before his disappearance. All 
was regular. The proper heirs had no recourse, no ex- 
pectation of aid from the authorities. They inherited 
a title, the Dispossessed, and nothing more but a hire- 
ling's pay. There would have been much whispering, 
many dark allusions to the barren woman who lived 
on at The Grove, who gave the name reality by letting 
the sassafras sprouts take the fields, but the real terror 
before which the keepers of the peace drew back lay 
in the meaning of the act itself. And this they had no 
way of dealing with. 

For what can the public guardians do but harden 
their souls and dance mincingly on the sharp blades of 
power? And at last fall and eunuch themselves, for 
the strongest heads grow giddy at last ? And clean up 
the blood of the victim to make ready the altar for the 
next, for the victim they can neither commit nor save, 
led all decked in garlands and white, like innocence 
coming up for confirmation, but coming up to sacrifice 



and spilt blood to lay the oldest ghost of all, who will 
not lie but, like the absent lord, returns with the sea- 
son to collect his dues ? Pistol strapped to the bulging 
side, the ready grin on the florid face, the toothpick 
after meat, always they find themselves caught in the 
same dilemma. They hail the fornicator into court, 
but bastards drool on the doorsteps. They jail thieves, 
but the honor of the state is compromised by those 
who deal in its goods. Assaulters they fine, but broken 
heads mock them each Saturday night. If matters 
committed to their care, all actions plain to pragmatic 
eyes, go unresolved for all their resolutions and un- 
chained for all their chains, what then could the High 
Sheriff do but cool his heels before the fact of a shut 
door which was not a fact at all but a threat and a 
symbol as old as night? 

"And where will it bring me," I said aloud, "this 
cold scent, but where all false trails lead — back upon 

"Ain't it the truf?" Johnny agreed and nodded 

And it was the truth and on this I dismissed Johnny 
who, as so often before, had put it squarely up to me, 
without incriminating himself. 



A didn't let out, even to Moss, how 
v hopeless I felt about poor Ellen. So 
C — -^ long as I didn't put it into words, I 
could keep my courage up. Words have a way of fixing 
a thing and, once spoken, may not be taken back. But 
the scene I had happened on in the garden was too 
depressing, even, for courage. As I turned to the 
springhouse to meet what I had to meet, I gave my 
back to Ellen. The moment of release I whirled about 
and met . . . well, I met her eyes. A faint flush brushed 
her features which had been so pale when I first came 
into the garden. The strain was all gone, her hands 
hung limp above the work she had been doing, but it 
was the eyes which confessed so clearly my fears. 
There was no avoiding the truth of their stare: they 
had seen all I had seen and more. 

I went to her and lifted her to her feet. If then she 
had confessed openly and frankly, if she had told me 
even something of her peril, I might have been able to 
save her. It was the moment for confidences, and for 
a fraction of the moment I thought she would throw 
herself into my arms and ask for aid. But the moment 
passed. She said instead with an engaging smile — 



what a brave effort at subterfuge it was — "My, you 
startled me." 

"I noticed," I replied, "your absorption." 

She said with strange self-confidence, "This was a 
place I didn't expect to see you." 

"And so you thought you were safe in slipping 


"And now I've spoiled it all" 

"Yes, you have spoiled it all." 

The very boldness of this took my breath away. If 
only she had spoken with brutal intent instead of after 
the old usage of husband and wife which, because of 
its falseness, seemed to me all the more terrifying ! As 
she saw my confusion, she went on, she even tried 
gaiety. "You see, I was not yet ready for the grand 

I could only blurt out, "It was surprise enough." 

"Don't you think I'm smart?" 

"I have another word for it." 

Something in my tone caught her up, for she said 
quickly, "I mean, haven't I done a lot? And without 
you suspecting a thing." 

"I haven't been completely blind, you know." 

"But you haven't known?" 


"I mean about the garden. What's been going on 

It was out between us now, in spite of the deliberate 
ambiguity of language. If I could only have torn 



away this last veil and heard the desperate truth, des- 
perately spoken! It was on my tongue to say, "You 
think you have deceived me? But I know whom you 
meet and what he wants." But some feeling of caution 
held me back. I said instead, "Now, Ellen, this is too 
much." I waved my hand toward the walkways. "Hi 
send Johnny here to finish up. His crops are about laid 
by and the boys can help. I want you to stay closer 
to the house. I can watch you there." 

"Watch me, darling?" 

"Yes, see what you do." I thought I had carried the 
game a little far, so I added, "I need to have you near. 
Besides, this work is too hard for you." I picked up 
one of her hands. "It will ruin these. That would be a 
great loss to us both." 

Carefully she withdrew her hand. "You should 
have thought of that when you asked me to come here," 
she said. 

On the way back to the house she stopped once and 
said fiercely or so I was made to feel the passion in 
her utterance, "We have got to finish up. I have so 
little time." 

"Time? Time for what?" 

She did not answer me, but again I had that feeling 
of a confidence about to be made and looked my willing- 
ness to hear, to help, but she blushed and dropped her 
eyes and we went the rest of the way in silence. 

In the following days I was with Ellen so con- 
stantly that what the garden had shown faded out of 



my consciousness, as the prints of a photographer's 
proofs fade in the sun. And there was a great deal 
of sun, which made us think of picnics. The work 
downstairs had gone so well that Ellen felt we could 
relax occasionally. She would fix us lunches and we 
would take to the woods and spread a cloth and eat 
and talk. It was great pretense and fun. Once we 
went several miles away, off our land, to a nice creek 
we knew, and here we spent the day swimming and 
lying about in the sun. My spirits soared, I even 
hoped, and if my conscience hurt me, it was on account 
of Moss to whom I owed such pleasant days and dream- 
less nights. Once in a mood of confidence I almost 
slipped up and told her what guest we had in the 
house. "I have something to tell you, Ellen," I said. 
"You must try to understand." 

"What, darling, have you been keeping back? You've 
not got some horrible woman tucked away on the back 
side of the farm, with Johnny standing guard. Johnny 
has been very mysterious lately." 

I caught myself up quickly enough. I took her hand. 
"No," I said. "It's just that I never really told you 
how much I love you." 

"Will you love me when I'm old and a hag?" 

"I'll love you always, no matter what." 

"No matter what at all?" 

"No matter what at all." I found I had grown sud- 
denly grave. 

"That's a large order, you know," she said slowly. 



"As long as you want my love, and even when you 

"I shall always want it," she said, "and I am trying, 
you don't know how hard, to make you a good wife." 
Her eyes blurred and she dropped them, and her voice 
was low as she said, "But it is hard sometimes. There 
are things . . ." 

"Things ?" I prompted. 

She leaned across the leavings of our lunch and 
kissed me. "If it could always be like this ... if we 
could stay always this close together ... if, if this 
were life and life not what it is . . ." 

"Once we thought ..." 

"Yes, I know we thought that food and drink were 
a bore, something to fill out the interludes between 
love, that a house was a shelter, and that if we only fol- 
lowed the sun, we wouldn't need that." She turned to 
me a little sadly. "I remember, you see. It is you who 
have forgotten." 

We were standing now. The sun flared with the 
false brilliance which dies into dusk and it fell on the 
littered cloth at our feet. For a moment the reflection 
from the white cloth, falling across her body, made 
glary stains on her tan, and then it dazzled my eyes 
and I closed them. And out of the darkness I said, 
"No, I haven't forgotten. I've tried to make it stick, 
forgetting that the honeyed moon passes into leaner 
quarters and, as a man must who would hold his love, 
turn the shelter into a house. But when the house is 
another man's house, and you no proper heir, in spite 



of title deeds and nine-tenths of the law, you are no 
better than a guest." 

"I'm no guest," she said defiantly. 

"No," I replied, and there was all the sadness of our 
predicament in my voice as I said it, "you are no guest 
at The Grove/' 



J 7 

or her to say/' I repeated to 
Moss as soon as I could get hold 
of him, "that she was no guest 
at The Grove brings us straight back to the garden. If 
she is at home here, and I am not ... if she is mistress 
here . . ." 

"Well, you are master." 

"This is no time for levity," I said rather irritably. 

"If not you, who then is?" 

I paused at the directness of this. There is nothing 
like the question direct to clear away the vagaries of 
loose thinking. I rather blushed at what I had been 
thinking : unconsciously I had accepted Johnny's super- 
stitious belief that Major Brent was master. How ab- 
surd this was Moss's plain speaking had made me see, 
for who can believe in a private resurrection? The 
dead might return in its own proper air, but no man 
in his right wits could say that this air could take on 
body. I had, in truth, come to accept Major Brent 
without being able to define him. This had confused 
me. Had he not abandoned The Grove to sterility, to 
a withering up of the traditional vine? Did he not 
will it to die with him? Then why should I have ever 
thought that he longed for resurrection? For if my 



problem was regeneration, his could only be a rising up 
to judgment. 

"If not you, who then?" The question repeated it- 

I replied out of my bemusement. "Perhaps no one." 

"No one?" 

I was made to feel a distinctly youthful tone in this. 
It might have been my own youth accusing me of the 
failure of middle years. I was faced with what all 
face who try to explain the complexities of human 
experience to the young. I compromised as one does. 
I fell back on the logic of the situation. "Major Brent 
resents my presence here. You know his history. He 
returns out of a jealousy carried beyond the grave. 
Don't ask me yet why a shade can feel jealousy." 

"But it is Ellen he haunts. Not you." 

"And why not? Woman is the carrier of tradition. 
His own daughter he kept barren. If he could draw 
Ellen to him ..." 

"But how?" 

"By luring her to her death," I said abruptly. "Why 
else do we keep such strict watch?" 

"Is it for this we keep watch ?" 

"For what else?" 

He said casually, "But death is such a common 

There comes a time in all strain when the recoil and 
the blow seem but parts of the same movement. At 
first I could think no farther than the utter irrelevance 
of his remark. I had received him back as the boy I 



had known, the dearly beloved nephew who had al- 
ways looked to me for guidance. I had forgotten the 
scalding pot of war into which he had plunged. And 
indeed he had a scalded look, the lacquerlike cast to 
the features I have sometimes seen on the face of the 
young who suffer too quickly and violently the ills of 
the world. In peacetime it is bad enough, the mark of 
the sophisticate, but in war it is far more sinister, the 
rushing of experience over knowledge, a surface hard- 
ening and all soft confusion beneath. Sadly, as I re- 
garded Moss, I understood that he was a casualty of 
war, one of those forbidden maturity, the process of 
curing which allows for the gradual mellowing of the 
sensibility. The truth was now plain. He had been 
cast out like spoiled meat. 

And I had made him my main dependence. This un- 
expected complication compromised my whole strategy 
of defense, but for the moment I could only hedge. I 
said softly, as one speaks to an invalid, "Don't you 
think that's beside the point?" 

But he looked at me out of his melancholy eyes and 
shook his head in a slow puzzled way. "It's every- 
where, all the time," he said quietly. 

"Yes, I know, but . . ." 

"I had a friend. We were in the same hole. The 
water was up to our armpits. I looked away and when 
I looked back, I saw his head sinking into the water. 
I lifted him as well as I could. He was there but he was 
not there. I got no relief for sixteen hours. I just sat 
in the water with whatever it was left I sat with. It 



took up as much room as he did, but it wasn't him. I 
was life, but he wasn't even death. Death was the air 
which cut across the top of the hole. I knew I had only 
to lift my head a few inches to find it." 
"That was a terrible shock," I said. 
"I had another friend," he went on, ignoring me. 
"He was in my platoon. The platoon was stretched out 
with good intervals between the men. It had been quiet 
for some time. It was a quiet sector. We were talking 
up and down the line. He was some twenty yards away. 
He called down to me, 'Remember . . .' then a shell 
dropped. I was knocked out by the concussion and 
when I came to, all covered with dirt and the smell, I 
saw a big hole where he had been. I called out his name 
before I could think. But he wasn't there. He wasn't 
anywhere. Just that big hole where he had been. I 
felt a little sick." He paused. "I didn't make any more 

"Look, lad, I know," I said, "but . . ." 
"No," he replied in the same even voice, "you don't 
know. But I know. There was so much of it. It was 
everywhere, all the time." 

"That was war," I said. "This is a different thing." 
"No," he persisted. "It's no different. What's dif- 
ferent is crowding yourself in a hole. You are there 
and you wait for it, and it doesn't come. You just wait 
and you think of everything you can think of. You'd 
be surprised how little there is to think of. It's like a 
long-drawn-out life where nothing ever happens. The 
things that bite and crawl and suck keep you alive. 



Then it's over." He stopped, but added, "There's one 
other thing. To love very hard and don't ever do any- 
thing but love. As long as that lasts you are alive. Get 
away from anything that will interfere. Run if you 
have to." 

"You mean I should run away from here ?" 

He nodded. "There's nothing else to do." 

"I can do three things," I said. "I can tell Ellen what 
I know." 

"But you haven't." 

"I don't dare. Suppose she's deep in the business." 

"So much the better. Before she goes deeper." 

"It might drive her all the way." 

"Go away." 

"That's my second possibility." 

"Then go, and now." 

"It's not so simple. There is the money tied up here. 
It's not easy to cut such strings. Nor does any man 
like to give up." 

"Giving up, winning, it's all the same." 

"Where would we go now? Even if we could drop 
what we are doing. Isn't the pillar cut from the same 
tree as the post?" 

"Go away," he said dreamily, "and take your bride 

"Ellen," I said dryly, "is no longer a bride." 

"My love would be always a bride." 

"Lying in the slop of foreign holes has addled your 
wits, son. Listen. Do you think I don't know what a 
bride is? She is the one with the eyes in the back of 



her head, seeing both ways at once, the one miracle life 
is capable of, where innocence and knowledge meet 
before they fuse in the waste of the world. And you 
who fancy yourself the perennial bridegroom. Do you 
think I don't know what he is, at least in this country 
where there is only one season? He is the man with 
the strained neck, looking always back to Eden. He 
tries one way or another, and each time ends up in 
the blind alley of adultery. Or California." 

I had tried to shock a little sense into him, and for a 
while I thought I had, but he only said, "And the third 

"Stay and see it out." 

As he made no comment on this, I filled the silence 
with my voice. "And that's what I mean to do. See it 

But the silence remained. 



r s soon as I was alone, I got the 
full impact of the one-two of this 
blow. Moss could never feel, I 
now saw, the responsibility for The Grove that I had 
once hoped from him. He would never preserve and 
hand it on with care to his heir. To live for the mo- 
ment, to burn life up in one great blaze, destroys the 
traditional thing. His attitude, really, approached much 
closer to Major Brent's than to mine. Each in his way 
would sacrifice The Grove to the private whim, the per- 
sonal need of the individual. My disappointment was 
grave, but it was by no means, at this moment, my first 
concern. Moss's attitude toward death, which I had 
learned too late, meant that he would be of no further 
aid to me. How much of a hindrance I had still to 
learn. I felt, with some misgivings, that he would not 
intentionally betray me, but I could no longer put any 
confidence in him. Nor could I dismiss him easily. He 
knew too much. There was no way of getting around 
it. I had added to my burden — I had two now to watch 
instead of one. 

But the first watch was in the hall below, where 
Ellen was busy taking off the old wallpaper with the 
help of one of Johnny's girls. I had bought her a small 



orchard spray and with this she shot a warm mist over 
the old paper, let it sink in, and then she and the girl 
took putty knives and worked the paper off. It went 
fairly fast and was less expensive than hiring a steamer 
and then finding somebody to run it. One of the most 
depressing things which was borne in on me, in the 
progress of my awakening to the real difficulties of 
regeneration, was my discovery that those following 
trades lacked professional integrity. It was not merely 
that any given craftsman — the word of course has lost 
all meaning — was unethical. Skill was gone, pride in 
the work ; he was not even interested much in his pay, 
for the war and the government had diverted the work- 
men from a belief in that basic fear of want which 
stiffens the social morality in good times and makes 
all men of family remember the diversity of evil. This 
condition was not entirely the fault of those in public 
places; they were merely the representatives of this 
democracy of absolute corruption, for the evil had long 
been working in the yeast. Everywhere one felt a spir- 
itual emasculation, for a man's final belief in himself 
comes from his attitude toward and his performance of 
his job. The soldier must be given ice cream to fight, all 
the rest of us must be bribed to live, for after all in 
spite of the conspiracy of silence and ignorance we, the 
impious, do know fear, the fear of those who sin against 
the Holy Ghost, the pretense that matter is all and that 
he who looks on the act of creation is himself creator. 
As I came downstairs, I found Ellen in the great hall. 
She was alone, sitting on the floor, in the midst of the 



debris of strips of wallpaper and the tools she was 
using — putty knives, stepladders, pans of water and 
patching plaster. Doors back and front were open and 
a warm breeze had already dried the top layer of the 
dirty brown paper. She seemed small and fragile and 
not the occasion for the litter but some rare object, so 
still was she, which should have been moved before 
the work began but had been overlooked by careless 
eyes. Her own eyes looked toward the door but they 
had the bright gaze of preoccupation. She did not hear 
me as I came up. 

I said softly, "A penny for your thoughts/' 

"Oh," she said. "It is you." 

"You seem overwhelmed by your work." 

"No, I was thinking about a time long ago, when I 
was sixteen." 

"That's not so long, darling." 

"It's centuries ago. My grandmother gave me a hat, 
I remember. It was my birthday. I thought it the most 
beautiful hat in the world. It had daisies underneath 
the brim and a soft blue ribbon which tied in a bow. 
How I walked and turned before the mirror! The 
world was very beautiful that day." And then she said 
sadly, "I never see daisies now that are half so pretty." 

After a second I said, "Where is Maybelle? I 
thought she was helping." 

"I had some things to wash. I'd rather do this than 

"You should have called me." 

She rose with a little sigh. "It's rather a relief to 



get rid of you for a while." She said this pleasantly 
enough, but what is said in jest is often meant for 
earnest. "You've been sticking like a leech, you know. 
And I can't get any work out of you." 

"I thought you liked me around." 

"I do, but much better as a hand than watcher." She 
grew serious. "I don't know whatever possessed you 
to think you would like to do over this old place. You 
avoid the simplest job. It's lots of fun doing things 
together. Not much doing it alone." She smiled wryly. 
"I don't ask you any more. You groan so it takes all 
the pleasure away." 

"You know that's not so," I said. "I want things to 

"You did once." She was facing me gravely, almost 
in accusation. "This is our home. We live here. We 
are putting our things here. Your things in a sense 
are you." And then she came out with it: "What is it 
that makes you loathe everything you do ?" 

This struck me like a bolt out of the blue. I felt that 
swollen clarity all blows give, and the incapacity to act. 
Mechanically I picked up the patching plaster and a 
putty knife and turned to the bare wall. It was my way 
of retreat. 

"Now I've hurt its feelings," she said. 

"I'm completely crushed," I replied. 

This feeble effort at f acetiousness failed, but it gave 
me time. And I needed time in which to recover from 
the surprise of this attack. It was so unlike Ellen. It 
was alien, hostile, the author of this exposure. But it 



was no stranger. I knew him well but not so well as he 
knew me, or I should have stopped this great forward 
stride of his. If I lacked proof before of communica- 
tion between them, I had it now. Ellen was too close to 
me to discover so revolutionary a change in feeling, a 
change which I myself, until the shock brought me the 
truth, was unaware of. It was true. I was beginning 
to loathe everything about The Grove, for the place had 
become the symbol of the waste of our lives, the sub- 
version of my one idea. 

As the putty knife flew down the cracks in the plas- 
ter, I could feel the look of defeat withdraw behind 
my eyes. The motion of my hands relieved me. My 
balance was restored, but I had to get out of the house. 
I had to move about. I turned and said, "Let's go into 
the garden and see what progress Johnny has made." 

"But there's still so much to do here." 

"We can't do it all in a day," I countered. "We are 
jugglers, you know. We have many balls in the air. 
To drop one is to lose the game." Strange words, and 
irrelevant, I thought, as I heard myself easily start a 
conversation so unrelated to my thoughts. 

She took it up. 

"It is rather like a circus, isn't it?" 

"So it is. I will change the metaphor. I'm the tight- 
rope walker." 

"And I, the lady bareback rider?" 

"No, darling, you are still the juggler." 

"But are there lady jugglers?" 



"Well, yes, and no. The juggler might — I say 
might — slip into a lady's skin." 

"What fun for the lady!" 

"And for the juggler." 

"Oh," she said in mock withdrawal, "I shouldn't 
think it would be fun for him at all." 

"No fun for the juggler?" I asked with lifted brow. 

"No fun for the juggler. He has to keep the balls in 
the air." 

She laughed gaily and I joined in, rather wryly, and 
then I said, "One reflects the company one keeps." 

"You see then," she replied, "what an effect you are 
having on me these days." 

"I, Mrs. Brent?" 

She gave me a direct stare and, to be sure I did not 
miss her meaning, added, "Who else, Mr. Brent?" 



7 here is no ruin so definitive as one 
that has been cleared of debris. A 
dead city covered by silt or jungle 
takes on the anonymity of nature. Dig it out and you 
apprehend more than you would looking at a city 
crowded with the commerce of men. What you actually 
encounter is the ruin of life. All that man was and 
tried to be lies exposed in the bareness of the broken 
structure. The tremendous effort to exist and to per- 
sist finds there its ironic commentary. One dares not 
look too long. 

As I came up to the garden, now cleaned of rubbish 
and undergrowth, an impression of personal and pri- 
vate ruin swept over me. The exposure was sudden 
and complete: the brick in the walks were uneven 
where roots had traveled; the borders of the flower 
beds showed a few scraggly box; here and there a 
rosebush grew out of shape. At the center the rotten 
floor of the springhouse looked crumbly and gray from 
the drying sun let in after so many years. All over, the 
garden was studded with the fresh-cut stems of bushes, 
like stobs driven in upside down. But the design, as a 
whole and in detail, was sharp and as importunate as a 



whispered message. And yet nothing had been re- 
stored. I could tell that Johnny had done, for him, a 
good job and one, as he probably thought, suitable for 
the occasion. He could not reach the bulging roots be- 
neath the brick walks, and it was plain that what nature 
had marred would remain forever misshapen. It oc- 
curred to me that he had cleaned it as he would have 
cleaned a family burying ground for a reunion of the 
descendants, giving the place a general tidying up but 
leaving the sunken graves and broken headstones 
strictly alone. 

"Why do you stop at the gate?" Ellen asked, inter- 
rupting my brown study. "It was you who would see 
it this time of day." 

"Yes, I know," I said. "It was I." 

"Well, then, won't you ask me to come into the gar- 

"Will you come with me into the garden, Miss Ellen, 
where it is always midsummer?" 

"How poetic, Mr. Brent !" 

"Not at all, Miss Ellen." 

"But indeed, Mr. Brent." 

"Midsummer," I mused. "Nature's deceiving pause. 
Come walk with me there." 

"Haven't you mixed your seasons? Summer is 

"In a flower garden there is only one season, Miss 
Ellen. The time of blooming." 

"But flowers fade — " and she raised her arms melo- 
dramatically — "even here." 



"Ah, yes. But one does not notice. That is the art 
of the garden, to have it always in bloom." 

"A very pretty illusion." 

"So that the progress of the seasons goes unnoted." 

"I don't follow," she said, taking my arm. 

"Consider the garden well, my dear. It has many 
uses, but first and always one thinks of love." 


"Don't you mean romantically?" 

"Exactly. You are very quick today." 

"And so . . ." 

"Romantic love denies the seasonal return. It is a 
pretense, a love for love's sake, an aesthetic pretense, 
if you will. And for setting, the garden forever in 
bloom, forever withholding its seed." 

"What a lovely illusion and how utterly barren ! You 
were not so learned when you courted me." And then 
abruptly changing her tone, "How wonderful it would 
be if the garden were now in bloom, if it could have 
always remained what it was, and not its poor dis- 
traught self !" 

"You see why I wanted to keep this for last." 

"Oh, but I couldn't wait," she said in a strange tight 
voice. And then more calmly, "Thank you for having 
Johnny begin it." 

"Well, there he is. Thank him yourself." 

We went around to the far side of the springhouse 
where Johnny was. Ellen said, "You've done a wonder- 
ful job, Johnny." 



He acknowledged this praise. "Hit taken right 
smart sprouten, Miss Ellen. We ain't made the show 
here we aimed to. Look lak we couldn't grub clost to 
the ground thout taring somethen up." He looked 
about him with measuring eye. "You can't rightly say 
that this war a hot-weather job noways. I reckon me 
and the boys done moved forty families' trash." 

"It's a lovely spot," she said. "I shall spend a lot of 
time here." 

"Hit war oncet a place for a body to take his ease in," 
he said, wiping his forehead and putting his hat back 
on. "But hit'll might nigh take one hand's time to keep 
the trash down now." 

"Oh dear, do you think so?" 

He reflected : "Hit'll last out this year, we being in 
the dog days." 

"I think it's the loveliest plan for a garden." 

Johnny responded as if the compliment were paid 
him personally. 

"Major Brent war a man for sich as this. He a man 
to step around in sweet-smellen places. No matter how 
hard he drove heself , when he come to the house first 
thing right off he washed. He washed his har in 
scented ile and chewed spices." 

"What a man !" Ellen said. I glanced her way. It 
was plain she delighted in hearing his name. 

"Yes'm, in many ways. Excusen me, he was a great 
hand with the ladies. He used to promenade 'm here a 



Ellen did not reply to this. I said, "So he was a 
ladies' man?" 

"In his sappy days, you might say he was a sporten 
man." Johnny indicated the walkways with a gesture. 
"He laid hit out like a race track. And promenaded 'm 
round and round. When he taken the notion, he'd stop 
and pick a bokay of sweet bubbies." 

"I should think," Ellen said rather testily, "the ladies 
would have got dizzy, going around in circles." 

"I've heared it made some of um faintified," Johnny 
reported gravely. 

There was nothing forward in his manner or ex- 
pression as he said this, but Ellen did not like it. She 
took a step to end the conversation. Johnny reached 
out his hand. "Take care, Miss Ellen." 

"What?" she said sharply. 

"Hit's bad luck to step over a grave." 

"Grave?" she asked and looked wonderingly at her 

"Grave?" I repeated. 

"Yessir." Johnny pointed to the flat stone top of an 
outdoor tomb. "He didn't lay out no burying ground 
at The Grove," he continued simply. "He knowed he 
wouldn't need nairn for heseff. He just laid um all 
away in the garden here." 

"All?" we asked in surprise. 

"He wives," Johnny replied with just the proper 
degree of pride and respect. "Yes'm, he laid 'm out lak 
spokes in a wheel, all around the springhouse. All six 
of um." 



"What a Bluebeard !" Ellen said. 

Johnny looked at Ellen for a moment. "Maybe a 
tech of blue. He beard war black as sin." 

Ellen was down on her knees reading the inscription 
on the tomb. 

"Six, Johnny?" I asked. "I'd forgotten there were 
so many." 

"Yessir. I come acrost um under the bresh here." 
He gazed into the air. "I calls 'm his wives." 

"You what?" 

Silently Ellen passed from grave to grave, reading 
the inscriptions. Johnny followed her with his eyes for 
some moments, then said, "Miss Jane war the first un. 
Her chillurn all growed and scattered. He got Miss 
Sally in Montgomery County. She died. Miss Lizzie 
come from somewheres off. When she died, look lak 
he lost heart in visiting ladies in a proper kind of way. 
The rest of um jest kept house for him." He threw 
this off in a matter-of-fact way, seemed to meditate, 
and then said, "Look lak, whether from fenced ground 
or off the commons, hit didn't agree with um none too 
well here." 

By now Ellen had completed the circle. She was 
standing on the other side of the springhouse, rather 
straight, her face pale, her head up like a startled ani- 
mal. But it was the eyes which alarmed me. For the 
first time I saw fright in them, but there was something 
besides fright. She was like one who, eating of a 
strange and rich dish, looks up suddenly with the 
knowledge that it is poisoned. "The poor dears," she 



whispered. "All but one died in childbed." And then 
without looking at either me or Johnny, she walked 
rapidly out of the garden. 

Johnny and I remained a long time quiet. "No, sir," 
I heard him say at last, "hit jest didn't noways agree 
with um at The Grove. Some folks 'lowed they was too 

"What do you allow?" I asked. 

"Nothen," Johnny replied. 

Never did I hear so much put into one short word. 




knew the moment Ellen left the 
garden that we all faced a fresh 
crisis. I even felt that I had the 
obvious chance to draw her back from the abyss where 
she tottered. But I could make the wrong move and 
send her plunging down beyond all reach, forever be- 
yond hope of redemption. Still there was hope — I held 
to this — hope in the inkling she had gained of the sin- 
ister nature of the past. She had been dazzled by a 
mirage cast up for her in the arid reaches of the mind 
where she had lost the way. But there in the garden 
her eyes had been opened. She more than suspected the 
horrors she was drifting toward. She more than be- 
lieved in their reality. I had seen it in her face with- 
drawing from the circle of the flat-topped graves. I 
heard the words "died in childbed." Those women 
had died; it suited the experience of that time to say 
of child. But Ellen asked, Six dead women — why? 

The next move was mine, to seize upon this doubt, 
to show her the ghastly meaning of this warning from 
the grave. Was it an entirely unconscious slip that 
she had referred to Major Brent as a Bluebeard? I 
thought not. I must make the most of this before the 
colored mist of her bemusement again settled and she 



followed the way of its frightful promise. But how? 
I stayed awake into the small hours thinking of all 
possible ways to approach her. So far there had been 
only allusions to her ghostly intercourse. Her replies 
had been masterly in evasion. Upon them I hung alter- 
nately between hope and despair. But throughout this 
entanglement of half-formed decisions and uncertain- 
ties I held fast to one clear fact: so long as she was 
willing to play such a game she was unsure of herself. 
She had not quite tired of the world and me. This 
was one way of looking at it. There was another, much 
darker and altogether disheartening. Suppose she was 
already his creature and taunted me out of the slavery 
of her surrender? Perhaps it was weakness to deny 
this possibility, but deny it I did. What I had learned 
in the garden gave me fresh courage. But I must work 
fast. The time had come to take the risk of judgment, 
to call a spade a spade — and a ghost a ghost. 

I slipped into my dressing gown, my dragon gown of 
eastern silk, and made my way to the little sitting room 
next to our sleeping quarters. Her door was shut. All 
was quiet beyond. Should I arouse her to disburden my 
mind ? Would this frighten her and thwart my desire ? 
I could not stand to see in my anxious state that mask 
she now wore so often. To succeed I must see her. As 
I hung there in indecision, it was solved for me on the 
instant. I knew as clearly as if I had heard words 
spoken, that something awaited me outside. 

I fairly floated into the corridor in the wonder of 
this knowledge. Even now, after all that has hap- 



pened, and when the end is known, the miraculous 
quality of my sensation, the feeling of security and 
power it gave me, returns to haunt me. In that mo- 
ment I experienced the irreducible essence of self, the 
mystery understood by all at death, that ecstasy of the 
spirit which a few religious glimpse in their contempt 
for matter but which I discovered as the absolute 
purity of selfhood. The gross weight of my body 
melted as jelly does in water, bone, muscle, and flesh 
no longer governed by but become that which is in- 
destructible. You may call it illusion, but I say that 
for that particular pause in time I was the subject of a 
miracle. I stood for a moment at my threshold, but 
who can name the true name of the threshold I had 
reached? The night was dark and cloudy and a smell 
of distant rain freshened the air. The murky light of 
the moon streaked the edge of a cloud. Then like a 
young hound I struck the scent. 

I can think of no better term. Some presence, hover- 
ing near, had passed. The trail it left was still sweet. 
That is the hunter's phrase and I was become a hunter. 
How shall I describe it? For one thing, it showed a 
definite direction but moved on a wavering line, such 
as air waves do. If anyone had seen me, he would 
have thought I was drunk and staggering to my room. 
There was of course no physical trail. There was 
nothing but the smell of moist air, and yet my nostrils 
flared, although I scarcely breathed, as they would 
have done at a scent blown past in a high gale. Curi- 
ously enough, what I remember best about it is the 



feeling of heaviness, almost of matter. I followed as 
one is drawn along the heavy footing of a dream. It 
swirled about my ankles in the slow heavy way of mist 
clinging to low places. Once I looked down, but saw 
nothing. I felt I could touch but could not touch it; 
could see but did not see it; could smell but did not 
smell it. I followed. 

I neither rushed nor delayed. I walked with the 
sure, absolute balance of a somnambulant, and I walked 
unafraid. The darkness did not confuse. Nothing con- 
fused, nothing obstructed me. My earth-bound senses 
had all perished in the miraculous transformation they 
had undergone. I had now one sense, the sense of 

And all the while the night held dark, but my vision 
ate into it like acid. Along the back corridor I followed 
until I came to the small enclosed passage connecting 
the south end of the apartment to the upstairs hall. It 
was close, narrow, and rather poorly lighted even by 
day. At night one hurried through it with a childish 
feeling of unknown terror. And always at this hour 
the outside door was locked ; yet I knew it would open 
to my hand. The door jumped at me; the scent, a 
thousandfold stronger, enveloped me. 

I had no thought now but of Ellen's peril. I rushed 
to her door, but once there I noticed that the effluvium 
lay more heavily toward the opening into the hall. Why 
should it sweep to the very threshold of her room and 
then veer off? There was one plausible answer. She 

was even now being sucked along in its tow. 



I hurried into the hall, but what I entered was a 
place deeper and broader than any hallway. Before 
me was the balcony. Its door was flung back and 
there I saw, with arms hanging limply, steps advanc- 
ing in hypnotic tread toward the rotten balcony rail, 
not Ellen, but poor bemused Moss, 




was too far away. I could only 
watch the mechanical impulsion 
of his advance, the slight twist 
of the head as if he were straining toward something 
in the distance. I saw him fumble at the rotten ban- 
ister, then put his hand lightly on the railing. Still like 
one who sees nothing close by, he raised his leg in even 
motion. This broke my spell. I called his name sharply. 
He hesitated, dipped his head as if to miss an obstacle ; 
then proceeded to carry on the interrupted action. . . . 
I heard the wood give a long straining creak. It was 
not until this moment of peril that my voice got through 
to him. He shuddered, took a step back from the open 
space and slowly turned, as if still reluctant to give over 
whatever image it was that had drawn him so close to 

I was carried forward on the upsurge of my relief. 
Relief . . . the sweetness of danger passed. Afterward 
there comes a lift to the simplest thing. The hall seemed 
its familiar self, its walls safe and comforting. I even 
forgot the threat to the peace of the house. The gruff 
thunder rumbling in the distance gave off a ,f riendly 
sound. But I needed some physical reassurance. The 
residue of nerves had left in my body a dull swollen 



ache. Desperately I felt the need to hug Moss. I took 
a step toward him . . . and then the moon plunged into 
the clear. Under the slow spread of its light, the tops 
of trees grew sharply dark, the lawn appeared vaguely 
familiar, and there upon it an amorphous blotch of 
shadow, as though secretly slipping out of the picture, 
took on line and form, the head first, then the long 
body, and at last the insolent set of the legs I knew so 
well. There in all his evil stood Major Brent, his head 
thrown back into the light. The face, fixed on the bal- 
cony, still and glistening, showed in its hideous naked- 
ness his purpose, a purpose the intent of which was 
already changing into triumph, as if he were sure of 
his victim. My eyes slowly dimmed and then went out. 
When I looked again, he had vanished. The moon had 
gone under a cloud, and the world was everywhere 

I felt myself step back against the wall for support. 
The five senses, somewhat flagging, had resumed their 
natural functions. "Well/' I said wearily, "how did it 
happen ? If I had been twenty seconds later, you would 
be lying on the bricks below. " And then out of my ex- 
asperation, "How did he manage it?" 

"How did who manage what?" I heard softly, al- 
most mockingly. 

I was in no mood for this. "For God's sake, boy, 
this is no time for evasions. How did he beguile you ? 
What did he say? What do? You must try to re- 

"Beguile me?" Moss was all youth and confidence, 



with some bravado, as he returned me this question. 

"Yes, Major Brent beguiled you," I said flatly. 

"Major Brent?" he repeated as though the name 
came as an impossible surprise. "I've not seen your 
Major Brent." And then as if there were some need 
to emphasize his statement, "I have never seen your 
Major Brent." 

I truly at this stage, pressed as I was with the in- 
creased pace of the drama we were enacting, felt that 
I had more than I could bear. It was possible that 
Moss's memory had been wiped clean . . . unless-— I 
must always face this uncertainty — unless the enemy's 
insidious promises had some way made the victim ac- 
cessory to the crime. 

"Perhaps you were dreaming and walked in your 
sleep," I said to help him along. 

"No," he replied blandly, "I am here because I want 
to be here." 

His tone irritated me beyond bearing. I did not 
stop to reflect that this tone had been set by some prior 
command left in the consciousness for just this effect. 
I could only blurt out, and the harshness of my voice 
rebounded like an echo, "Well, but for me, you would 
be lost in it." 

"In your mind, Uncle, I am already lost," he replied. 

"I have not said it." 

I could think of no reply. I had again been taken 
by surprise. 

"No, but you think it." 

"Of course I don't," I answered rather lamely, if 



truthfully, for what I did think came close to the same 
thing. But how could he know this unless he had 
been taught to read my mind just as Ellen had been 
taught, when she accused me of hating everything I 
did at The Grove. 

There was nothing for me to do but to come right 
out with it. "No, Moss," I said. "But you have been 
keeping something back. This is the hour for truth. 
Why do you hide here?" 

"What makes you think I am hiding?" 

It was all so frankly outspoken, not only what he 
said but his manner of speech, that I felt as if I were 
deliberately creating a mysterious situation out of a 
natural circumstance. I didn't carry much conviction, 
saying, "Well, by the way you arrived here, for one 

"Didn't you expect me?" 

"I did." 

"Well, then." 

How in the wrong I felt as I pushed it further, "I 
mean the way you appeared. You will admit it was 

"But didn't you want me ?" 

"Of course." But I didn't let this clever flattery di- 
vert me. "You came here, a remote place. You didn't 
go to your father's house, where you would be known." 

"I can't go home. I can come only to you," he said. 
. "But why?" 

"You know why," he said. 

I didn't know how to push this further. In his clever 



way he knew it, and he knew that I knew it. I changed 
my approach. "And the way you have kept hidden, 
coming out only at night. Sleeping by day." 

"But that was your idea, Uncle." 

This was a half-truth but it silenced me. My delicacy 
in the matter, from the sympathy between us which had 
led me to understand his predicament and not press 
him with it, now rendered me helpless. As I said no 
more, he drove me farther into my corner. "It was 
you, you know, who chose the daytime watch." 

This wound me up and tied me off. What proof is 
there to a silent agreement, if one party refuses to 
honor it ? What face I would have lost if I had given 
away to temper, before so much youth and candor and 
the innocent-seeming pleasure he took in catching me 
in his net. I could imagine the look of hurt and surprise 
in the soft dark eyes, the injured query and afterward 
the awkward drop of the head, for he liked to please 
and never had he been one to bear correction. This 
was the lesson I had learned and his father had not. 

No, I had to accept the shift in our relations and act, 
when the need arose, within the new limits imposed. As 
we parted, I parted with the deeper knowledge of the 
enemy's skill and the fresh ground I had lost. 


chaptex rwEKTY-r WO 

7 here are times when the best of us 
falter, when we feel sorry for our- 
selves. I had reached that hazard- 
ous state : I felt very sorry for myself. If I had been 
a man of deliberate evil, there would be some justice to 
the ordeal I was being put through. But what was I ? 
Can any man answer this question? I tried to, in the 
chill of those bef ore-dawn hours after I had left Moss. 
I left him with a good conscience. I was sure Major 
Brent would return no more that night, but indeed I 
was so low in mind that if he had, I would have said, 
Enter your domain and do your will. At least I think 
I would. 

Where I wandered I do not know. My steps moved 
in reflex action to the real journey which went on in 
my head. And that took me down past the will, past the 
imagination, to the obscure area which the soul inhab- 
its. Here there are limpid patches where lights play, 
but all else is opaque and of an endless depth no re- 
sources can plumb. But I probed as well as I could. 
Like two boys shouting threats across the circle of 
dust their fears are treading, I went round myself, 
and only when shame turned fear into pain did I suffer 
knowledge. Knowledge, the memory of where we go 



wrong but never quite why. There are two questions 
that may be put — What and How. The scientist asks 
What, the artist How, but in any case both burn in the 
same fire. The residue of one is ashes for the winds, 
the leavings of the other a thing of hard irreducible 
form, telling all and nothing, and its polish is the shine 
of agony. My agony was in the making, but who can 
leap clear of the fire, that leap which hurries time and 
rushes the end? 

I had come to live at The Grove, for in my blood was 
the insistent need to abide. The wanderer wears smooth 
as a penny and tells fortunes, but never his own. The 
gypsy in the coonskin cap, making always his circle — 
this I fled and sought the place where the seasons 
make their orderly return, to the dwelling for the 
woman, to the earth for the seed, and I to my care. I 
came to a place with a western view. I was not the 
prodigal returning to the fatted calf, and yet there was 
one who saw me from afar, but he did not rush forth 
and fall on my neck. He waited and when I came I 
found a thing out of time haunting the mouldering 
bones. I found that the body has its seasons, too, and 
that they are brief and, diminutive of the great seasons, 
make one cycle. 

And so it is that the great fear is not death but obliv- 
ion. And oblivion settles on an impotent man. It was 
this, I decided, which had kept Major Brent near the 
scene of his crime, for impotence has a larger meaning 
than the body's lack. In vanity and by will he had cut 
off his line ; or so he had intended, but there he fell into 



radical error. Call it metaphysical if you will, but the 
progeny The Grove might rightfully claim as its due 
had gone to the grave with Major Brent. But it would 
not lie. A thing must live before it dies. And this prog- 
eny, forbidden life, drew back the shade of Major 
Brent and fastened him to the air of the place. Its 
mortal weight forbade him the felicitous reaches of in- 
finity. To be neither of the world nor altogether out of 
it — that was his punishment. I had got this much, wan- 
dering through the tortured night, and I knew I had got 
it right. But it was not with this I had to do. 

I will state it plainly. Every crime demands expia- 
tion, every expiation a victim. That he might go free, 
dispossess himself of the blur of mortality, Major Brent 
had chosen what I loved for victim. The nature of the 
sacrifice was not clear to me at this time, but my fears 
grew out of its very vagueness, for I knew it was not 
vague to him. I had seen enough this night to know 
that his ghostly purpose had advanced almost to the 
moment of resolution. I must steady myself for the last 
onset he, even now, had withdrawn to loose. I probed 
no more. As I entered Ellen's room, our room, I had 
decided: we would flee The Grove before it was too 

The night lamp by her bed was lighted. 

"You are awake," I said. 

The shadows from the lamp showed me only half her 
face, and the thin gown, falling over her frail shoulders 
and exposing the round breast, seemed already shadowy 
light withdrawing into deeper shade. "You are awake," 


<yl KAME F0% EVIL 

I said again and crossed the room to turn up the lamp. 

"What time is it?" she asked. 

"Late or early. The roosters are crowing." 

"They often crow at midnight. I think the deep 
stillness o£ sleep startles them, and they cry out that it 
is sleep, that it may be broken." 

"It is after midnight," I said. 

"Is it?" she said dreamily, looking all the while at 
my face, but I felt that her sight focused on some 
reverie of phantoms I was sure she now met with 
urgent, feverish need. Then suddenly her eyes became 
clearer and she said, "What are you doing up at this 

"I might ask, Why are you awake ?" 

"I couldn't sleep. I've been thinking." 

"About what?" 

"About us and what we do here." 

"For instance?" 

"Well, for one thing, about you wandering at night, 
not coming to bed." 

"Did I wake you?" 

"Something did." 

I sat on the bed and took her hand. I asked very 
slowly, "Do you know what it was ?" 

"Why, no," she said and yet this answer seemed to 
imply that I could tell her if I would. 

I leaned slightly forward, as her attention was about 
to waver. "Do you know where it was ?" 

"Why, no. Why do you look so strange ?" 

I pinned her down. "Are you sure ?" 



"Well, no . . . yes." I felt her hand withdrawing from 
mine, but I held it fast. "I thought there was some- 
thing out there. I couldn't be sure." 

"Where?" I was calm, but oh, how insistent! "In 
the hall, perhaps ?" 

"Perhaps. You were in the hall, weren't you? Let 
go my hand. You are hurting me." She pulled away 
and said, "Have you seen anything?" 

Go carefully, carefully, I warned myself. You can- 
not say you have seen a ghost and let her laugh the 
truth off, even though the laugh cry out in harsh falsity. 
I said, "The night is full of things, if you can see in 
the dark." 

"Can you see in the dark, dear? I can't. I light a 

We were now back at our old evasions, which 
skimmed the surface of the thing we feared to name, 
but which by the very lightness of innuendo admitted 
its presence. 

"Are you afraid of what you will see in the dark?" 
I asked. 

"But I've just told you. I make a light. A light is a 
comfort to a lonely woman. Yet it makes her more 

"Are you so much alone?" I said directly, dropping 
the banter. 

"I have been. You see, you either work or wander 
around the place like a man with a bad conscience. 
You should have a bad conscience neglecting me as you 



"But does it matter so much to you?" I asked leaning 

I had driven her into a corner. She looked away as 
if to escape and I pitied her with all my heart. If I 
could only have helped ! But it was not for me to help. 
After a moment she collected herself. Her breath made 
a fast little gallop. 

"Yes, it has mattered," she said. "But it may not any 

Her voice and eyes were deliberately teasing; and 
then she came out with it so easily and with such self- 
confidence I almost felt in her the demand for my sym- 
pathy and approval. "There may be someone, you 
know, to take your place." 

You may expect the worst and think you are pre- 
pared, but you are never prepared. The prisoner at 
the dock is never prepared, even though he reads his 
doom in the judge's face. The few simple words seem 
too slight for the finality of their intelligence. You 
cannot move. You sit motionless, with the sense of the 
stricken years between you like a glass and in the hall 
below the clock strikes the hour. You sit as though you 
would sit out time until the last stroke of the gong dies 
away and you rise and passionately take her in your 
arms and there is a gasp of pain in her breath and you 
say, "I will take you away from this haunted house." 

She does not speak, though your desperate embrace 
bruises and you sense fear in her rapid breath, fear of 
what she does not understand in you, fear that she 
will be torn from the phantom who grows in her desire 



like a cancer. Then at last the strength goes from your 
grasp and you release her and she draws back against 
the headboard, with the fright now seen in her eyes 
and behind the wide iris resistance growing. You hear 
your dull words, dulled from the expense of passion, 
"How was I to know?' 

After a while, when she sees your strength abate, 
she stirs slightly, but speaks clearly enough, "Where 
do you think you can take me ?" 

"Anywhere away from this." 

"Do you think it will help to go away? There was a 
time for that, but that time is past." 

"Time passes," I said vehemently, "but you make 
time too. I brought you here, but how was I to know 
what I would find?" And then I blurted out, for my 
words catching fire from themselves leaped trembling 
and out of control, "I'm afraid I'll lose you." 

"That," she said quietly, "is a risk you must take." 

I had expected denials, derision, some guilty mask 
behind which she might retreat, I don't know what I 
expected, anything but the surprise I got, the one thing 
that would silence me, this challenge to my manhood. 
And it was not only her words, but the manner she as- 
sumed, a quiet resignation, such open courageous 
frankness, such gleaming sorrow, how shall I describe 
the strength and weakness she seemed, except to say 
that she presented the devoted look of the victim, that 
fusion of innocence and desire which makes ecstatic the 
eye of the sinner as he ravishes and cleans himself 
upon what his glance devours. 



But I was not that sinner. I was the one from 
whose arms she had been snatched by lot, and as I 
stood there, for a moment helpless, all my old longing 
for her love, the keener for the sense of the loss I 
would suffer, took hold of me. "No love shall supplant 
our love/' I whispered, advancing. 

"No, no," she said, drawing back. "Don't ruin every- 

But I did not hear. My hand pressed on the hot circle 
the lamp chimney made. The light flickered and then 
went out. For an instant the tongue of flame leaped at 
my flesh. My mouth swam in hot jets of pain and the 
silence swelled into one great swoon. She for a little 
resisted my arms, but at last I plunged into darkness. 




orning seemed eternities 
away. As did the day of our 
marriage when I waited for 
her at the chancel and she came forward as a beautiful 
woman toward a looking glass. There is no act of dark- 
ness so desperate that daylight may not compromise it. 
But how the dawn delayed ! I could almost believe it 
conspired with the night, so dismally did it creep out of 
the east, behind a dew that was more fog than dew. 

What folly made me think that violence could draw 
love back but the folly of desperation ? Whoever finds 
again what he has lost? What wanderer returning 
home finds other than exile in the familiar landmark? 
Yet the loser seeks, the wanderer returns, and I must 
do what I had to do. I could smell the greasy stain of 
the lamp chimney as I sat on the bed's edge, waiting 
for enough resolution to get up and salvage what I 
could from the night's despair. I saw my scattered 
clothes on the floor and felt afresh that vast distance 
the quietness made between us, after the dry sobs, and 
the dead voice, "How could you do this?" And then 
in bitter wonderment, "How could you?" How could 
she not understand ? I learned easily enough how one 
may maim what one loves. But that was the night. The 



light of day now seeped into the room. I reached for 
my clothes. They pricked like cold needles. 

Outside the damp air brought me up to action. This 
day we would flee the place. First I would deal with 
Moss. He would get around me with no more equivo- 
cation. He must confront his secret and resolve it. I 
crossed to the old office where he stayed and entered 
without knocking. The smudge at the dirty window 
gave enough light to show me his bed had not been 
slept in. I drew closer to make sure. There was not a 
wrinkle on the counterpane. It had the cold, starched 
look of a bed made up for the casual guest. And then 
on the instant I discovered how far behind events were 
leaving me. The moldy, shut-up smell of disuse told 
me that Moss had never used his room. 

There was not a moment to lose. I hurried toward 
Johnny's house and met him with a lantern on his way 
to the barn. The fog was so heavy he didn't see me 
until I was almost upon him, but he gave no sign of 
surprise. He stopped, hunched up with the chill, and 
waited. "Take me right now," I said, "to the spot 
where Major Brent looked over the fields for the last 

He gave the lantern to one of the daughters. She 
moved off like a shadow and the fog enveloped her. 
One by one his boys passed, their bulks thinning until 
they, too, disappeared. I said, "We must hurry. We 
may even now be too late." 

Johnny kept my pace, without seeming to increase 
the slow steady swing of the countryman. "I've just 



come from my nephew's room. He did not sleep there 
last night." 

"Young folks runs at night," he said. 

"I saw him last night. I saw whom he was with." 

We went along and I said no more to let this sink in. 
There was no sound but the rub of my corduroys. "He 
was with our friend," I said significantly. I waited a 
few steps more, then : "I arrived in time to save him." 

"What he want wid him ?" he blurted out. 

I half turned, but Johnny kept his glance before him, 
as if he were intent on not losing the way. "I thought 
you might tell me" I said. By slowing my words I 
gave them the emphasis of an accusation. "You tend 
his room. You must know he hasn't used it." 

Then Johnny did a surprising thing. He delayed his 
pace as if from indecision; then stopped and for an 
instant looked directly into my eyes. "Boss, you knows 
who him's after." 

He turned away and resumed walking. His glance 
did not rest long enough on mine for me to make an 
issue of it, but I felt such a chill of revelation on the 
profundities of my situation that, of necessity, I sought 
for some superficial evasion. I dared not ask who. 
For days I was to be haunted by the depths within 
depths of his dark pupils swimming in those eyeballs 
the color of eggshell. They saw. What did they fore- 

The mist was lifting. It gave me my, excuse. We 
came to a field where the fences had rotted down and 
upon the edges of gulleys the washed field showed thin 



and red. A fury seized me at this evidence of Major 
Brent's will. I turned upon Johnny. "You haven't 
cleaned out these fence rows." 

"Naw sir. Look like a body never do ketch up." 

"They've grown at least forty feet into this field." 

"They's still plenty ground." 

What good now to tell him I had come to save and 
restore, now that I had thrown in the sponge and was 
leaving? But the evidence of my defeat was so flagrant 
I could not help saying, "This is what Major Brent 
wanted. To turn this place into a wilderness." 

"He done it now," he replied in what I thought was 
a completely irrelevant tone. 

"I came here," I said bitterly, "to make it so you and 
everybody at The Grove could have a more abundant 

" 'Bundance?" I could almost hear his mind turning 
the word over. "You means meat aplenty in the smoke- 

"In a way, yes." 

"I ain't never knowed the time." We went along for 
a while, I still mad and he ... he said presently, his 
voice keeping time to his stride, "But looks lak time 
I burns my plant beds and sows 'm I ain't turned round 
good befo'e they needs setten. I works hit, suckers it, 
worms it, tops hit, cuts hit and hangs it in the barn. I 
ain't got my breaf good befo'e got to haul barn wood 
and fire hit. When the order's right got to git it down. 
Strip hit. Bulk hit. Then time comes to sell and you 
feels you done yo'ese'f a favor. You stands round 



waiten and the buyers and the pinhookers comes in 
jesten, and they strolls along, picks up a hand and 
flings hit down, and the man callen Hi, yi, yi . . . Sold. 
And nar, befo'e you kin spit, you been hiyied out'n a 
year's work." He paused. "No, sir. A body just ain't 
got no time for 'bundance." 

No time for abundance. What has man time for ? I 
should have asked, but what was the good now of 
struggling with his inertia? I did not even pause for 
bitterness. We walked on and under the sun the mist 
burned away and I saw we had reached a large woods. 
I said, "Which way?" 

Johnny nodded before him. "That hit." 

I did not understand. "That's what?" 

"Whaf you wanted me to bring you." 

"That's no field," I cried in sudden panic. 

"No, sir. Not no more hit ain't." 

Even now I was slow to accept what I saw, so 
blinded was I by that image of golden fields abandoned 
to rot. There is the act, and there is the image of the 
act. But the slow turn of the seasons fills out the truth. 
I gazed at the buckbushes, the tangle of brush and 
briers and overhead the leaves of autumn shifting 
their masses of color, now showing, now hiding, the 
anonymous depths of the wilderness. "Let's hurry," 
I said. 

Johnny drew back his foot. "This here is fur as I 

"What do you mean?" 

"I ain't never been in them woods." 



"But if I go . . ." 

"That ain't me." 

I said slowly, "Do you mean you are abandoning 
me, here and now?" 

He looked up and down; said, "Hit make a body 
squinty-eyed to look at what you sees." 

"Very well," I replied. "I'll go alone." 

To this he gave no reply, nor did I look at him again. 
I started in, fearing but sure of what I would find 
there, not knowing whether I should be too late. The 
briers struck and bound me in their sharp festoons. 

Johnny called out, "The cattle uses sometimes be- 

"Why didn't you tell me?" I called back in exasper- 

I found the break the cattle had made and followed 
the faint and winding path. Along this I hurried, 
dodging the slapping limbs until I found myself well 
in among the trees. Here I left the path, for it fol- 
lowed a simple instinctive route and, being cattle-made, 
would skirt the center where I was going. I took di- 
rection as well as my haste would allow and pushed on. 
It was not a large wood, that is not large enough to 
get lost in, but it was dense and had reached the season 
which is life-in-death. The black gums, the first to 
turn, appeared through the green depths, great bloody 
flowers already drying, and on the fresher leaves a 
faint brush of yellow cast everywhere its blight. This 
confused my eyes, but I plunged along, choosing the 
easiest ground until at last I found I had lost the way. 



If I had stopped calmly to take my bearings, it would 
have been a matter of minutes before I should have 
come close to the center. But the urgent need, the 
waste of time, and my bewilderment drove me on. Be- 
neath my trousers I could feel the smart of brier and 
thorn; my shoes grew slick; I slipped and fell. 

Weary and smarting, I paused half-blind with sweat 
and despair. I saw how deep a way in I had gone, for 
all about me the light grew even. There came an in- 
stant when I almost heard the woods catch its breath. 
It grew as still as quail in a brush pile. To the depths 
of this quiet my solitude abandoned me. I had suffered 
at The Grove, I would suffer yet again, but there was 
nothing to equal the terror of this solitude. Then out 
of it I heard a steady rhythm of breathing. I have no 
way of knowing when it began. I can only know that 
at some certain moment it must have begun. It was a 
sound such as one might hear in a dream, the surprise 
of its imminence when you first grow aware of it. But 
here in the woods I at once thought of some cornered 
beast. Yet a beast would have made no sound. It 
seemed to come from a clump of bushes close at hand. 
But it was not there. I heard it behind me. I turned, 
and it turned also. No matter where I looked, it was 
always somewhere else, yet always near. I began to 
run, now completely at hazard. What stopped me was 
the insolent, almost human complaint of crows startled 
on their perches. I looked up in time to see one swift 
black streak before it vanished, cawing, among the 
leaves. I looked down and saw my nephew Moss. 



He was in a part of the woods more open than the 
rest, and his back was to me. I had only a moment, but 
I needed only a moment to feel the hard tight lump of 
pain in the throat and that terrible drop into emptiness 
which accompanied it. I had only to see the set of his 
back, his absorbing gaze, the force of which came to 
me as clearly as if I had seen it, to know that I had 
lost him. There was not much to go by, but the heart 
needs very little. He was erect through all the lean 
vigor of his person, but the tension in his shoulders 
told me volumes. They showed an extravagant long- 
ing for abandonment. All of this — what I felt and 
saw — fused in a flash of intuition, for I had no more 
than seen him before he began to move away. I cried 
out in my misery, "Stop! Wait!" but he was deaf to 
my appeal. I ran forward to seize him, to save him in 
spite of himself, but I was thrown back — the place 
was truly enchanted — by a barrier of thorn trees that 
struck deep into my flesh. When I had got around 
these, he was gone. I followed, running and stopping, 
in the direction I supposed he had taken. I called his 
name; but the deep hush, more hostile for my noisy 
progress through it, gave back no reply. He had liter- 
ally vanished before my eyes. Or so I thought until, 
a few paces farther on, I parted the bushes and came 
out on the rim of a sinkhole. 

It was a large sinkhole, great enough to have pulled 
small trees down its rotten sides. For a moment I 
hesitated; then my eyes followed down the slope to 
the black gaping opening at the bottom. I shuddered 


<yl KAME F0% EVIL 

and because action was the only thing that would save 
me, I made my way down the steep slick sides. For 
the last five yards there was neither purchase nor bush 
to hold to. There I stopped. There I faced the door 
to mystery. Fascinated and repelled, I looked into the 
black emptiness below me. One glance was enough: 
the hole was easily big enough for a man to fall 
through. In the silence which my long gaze made I 
heard the ominous sound of water running under- 

How long I remained staring I do not know, long 
enough to feel the dangerous pull of that subterranean 
sound, promising release, escape from the unbearable, 
the lull of utter rest and oblivion. What saved me, re- 
minding me that I had another to protect, came from 
the blasting knowledge that there could be no rest, no 
lull of oblivion for me even there. Intelligence of this 
presented itself in the only way that could have re- 
turned me to action. I felt a break in the spell of my 
gaze. Raising my head, I looked directly across into 
the face of Major Brent. 

Masked by cedar bushes, his eyes hung before me 
like rotten berries, reflecting the depths from which I 
had just turned away. I am not sure even now whether 
his gaze had been fixed there for my undoing, tricking 
me within the radius of its transfiguring power. I say I 
am not sure, and I am not ; but I rather think it had to 
do with the completed act. Unless his cunning had 
achieved an enlargement of pattern so far unknown 
to my experience with him, I had surprised him con- 



sidering not me but the ruin of his youthful victim. 
Triumph of a sort he showed, even though it was no 
more than the growl of the beast over his kill. Indeed, 
he had the look of one who has. eaten the very vitals of 
his victim. But the fullness of my surprise was that I 
now saw in him a much younger apparition, as one who 
had truly eaten of life. The lips pouted in a sensuous 
curve ; there was a glow on his features ; but the face, 
the color of that brown which none resists, showed also 
the mark of his torment. And it was this — equal pull 
between the need and the suffering it made — which 
contained the secret of his appeal. But the horror which 
fixed me there evolved from the knowledge that he 
could both show and disguise damnation. 

So I felt as I looked up and through the cedars con- 
fronted my enemy. Perhaps I should have called out, 
defied him. But would this have freed me from the 
festering curse which poisoned my life? It might have 
brought me temporary relief, but the need for it was 
stifled in what I can remember only as a heightening of 
the tension. My vision had sharpened. There was no 
satiety on those lips : they still hungered. I had scarcely 
taken this in when he turned his head in a restless start. 
Then he was gone, gone in the very act of turning, but 
not before I had caught the full force of his purpose, a 
purpose the intent of which, if he had spoken aloud, 
could have been no more plainly told. 




omehow I found my way out of 
the woods and back to the house. 
I remember half running into the 
yard, then a deliberate slowing to a walk. I thought : it 
is unseemly in me to be running: I shall bring forth 
questions which I cannot, or had better not, at this time 

I felt relief at touching base again, with what had 
happened in the woods behind me. Then it came to 
me why I had hurried: Ellen. What should I tell her? 
I had to decide, even as I wondered how she would re- 
ceive me after the night's violence, so fresh to her, so 
remote now to me. 

The house for the first time in months was a great 
comfort : its lines so sure, so firm. As I walked toward 
it, I almost sighed with relief and gratitude for its 
foursquareness. There it was. Ellen would be safe 
within. Tears suddenly blurred my vision, and now 
in the late morning light all my fears seemed ground- 
less. But this elation was momentary because the facts 
were hard. I had first to make my peace with Ellen; 
and I would, of course, now have to tell her about Moss, 
even to the dark end he made. My story would bring 
the whole thing into the open. This were better so. So 



great a shock might break the enchantment. And be- 
sides there was no way to keep my knowledge secret. In 
the end the Army was sure to trace Moss. There would 
be questions. What ugly suspicions would not any si- 
lence of mine give rise to? Who would believe the 
truth? The state does not recognize ghosts. It will 
demand some reasonable explanation. If none is forth- 
coming . . . 

Clammy sweat broke out on my forehead at the 
realization of the predicament my enemy had brought 
me to. I stepped quickly into the great hall and leaned 
my back against the shut door. For the first time I 
gave myself up to that low impulse, the instinctive fear 
only the trapped know. 

Self -absorption stops all clocks, but after a while it 
came to me that the house did not seem the same as I 
had left it. At first it was no more than a vague dis- 
quietude, no more than the embarrassment one feels 
on discovering the change in old familiarity. And then 
I noticed — my consciousness was all alert now — the 
peculiar quality of silence the hall made. I called Ellen's 
name and, not waiting for an answer, rushed upstairs. 
She was not there. I quickly thought of the kitchen. 

Maybelle was at the sink, her brown hands idling 
in the dishwater. She did not look up as I came in, and 
I knew that things were very wrong. I asked, "Where 
is Miss Ellen?" 

"She gone off." 


"She gone off in the car," she replied after a pause, 



which I knew was a rebuke for my tone of voice. 

"Did she say where she was going?" I tried to 
make my voice sound casual, but I knew it was useless. 
Maybelle knew that Miss Ellen never went off in the 
car by herself. 

"She didn' say." 

I had to get it out. "Was she alone?" 

Some way, without turning her head, she managed 
to shift her eyes quickly toward mine ; then drop them 
to her hands resting quietly in the greasy water. "I 
never seen nobody," she replied, looking through the 
little window at her head. 

By now I was desperate. I blurted out, "Did she say 
when she would be back?" 

"She never say." 

Dreamily Maybelle picked up the dishrag and twisted 

"Thank you," I said and turned to get out of the 
kitchen quickly. 

At the door her voice stopped me. "She never give 
out no dinner. What you wants me to have?" 

I stopped, at what tremendous effort of will only 
I will know. I collected myself to speak calmly, to give 
some illusion of order to this crumbling world. "Oh, 
bread, meat, whatever you have." 

"Am' no meat." 

"Then anything you have in the house." Before I 
went out, I had control enough to say, "Bring a cup 
of coffee to my study, please." 

I did not go at once to the study. I wandered aim- 



lessly, if wander describes what I did. To wander pre- 
supposes some degree of will. Shall I say, because I 
breathed, because my heart still sent the blood back 
and forth through my body, my feet moved, but with 
no purpose or direction? I must have passed through 
every room in the house, seeing without seeing, every- 
where through surroundings once familiar, now merely 
nonexisting. I seem to remember saying, Ellen gone — 
saying it; pausing; saying it again, hoping to induce 
some sort of response. But it was no use. Nature's 
kind anesthesia had deadened my senses. 

I became aware of a growing restlessness, and then 
I saw that I was in our bedroom. Here, if anywhere, 
I would feel her presence. This was her creation. 
There was not a thing in it that had not grown in the 
loveliness of her eye, or been touched by her hand. But 
I looked around at a strange place. The curtains hung 
stiff and cold. The chairs sat about on display. I looked 
hard at the bed, thinking memory would at least restore 
that to meaning. But I could see only the craftsman's 
design as he must have seen it in the moment of intui- 
tion. There was no history for me here. Quickly I 
turned toward my study. There the human presence 
would have left its mark. Only in such a place could 
I recover my identity. 

The cup of coffee was on the desk. It was cold, but 
I drank it down. With it came release and realization 
of the desperate pass I had reached. Moss first, and 
now Ellen. She had seized the moment, oh how well 
planned, step by cunning step, and had gone to him. 



And I was helpless in this desertion, not knowing 
where or what even to do. Bound hand and foot and 
thrown into the ash heap. 

Well, let her go to him. It's what she's wanted, to 
try the multiplicity of those dark practices his ghostly 
whisper set her longing for. How the old one must 
feel his triumph ! For it was through me that she had 
gone to him, through me that he would at last and for- 
ever possess her. I had not been able to stand the strain. 
I had weakened and blundered, and he had known all 
along that I would ! It was his way of showing his con- 
tempt for me. Oh, it was a nice, refined cruelty, this 
self -punishment he had devised, the black gloom of 
remorse and manhood's inadequacy! 

I was a long time in this state. There was no pain. 
It was all pure suffering, a long suffocation like drown- 
ing, except that I was denied the sweet release into un- 
consciousness which drowning allows. And at last, 
when I thought I could stand no more, there began the 
slow dark pressure against the heart. The despond- 
ency this made is not for words to relate. Then sud- 
denly the moment of ecstasy. When that passed, I felt 
as light as down, forever freed of my burden. I had 
done my best. I could do no more. I had nothing more 
to do. I could set out tomorrow, even now, on the big 
road and go until I dropped, with no thought but of 
what the day would bring and not much of that. And 
at night sink into sleep, sleep without dreams, and wake 
up with the sun as fresh as a child on the first day. 

Naturally this sense of absolute freedom could not 



last. I knew there was more to come. Perhaps it was 
the shock of looking up and finding the day almost 
spent that brought me back to reality. Perhaps the 
door made a noise as it opened. The two things came 
so close together I cannot even now separate them in 
my mind, for before I could measure the consequences 
of the lost time, my eyes shifted and there, just inside 
the threshold, stood Ellen. 

She stood with perfect calm, the door half open, 
and looked at me. I saw at once that she was no longer 
innocent. There was a surety of new power about her, 
a mysterious experience I could never share. I got all 
of this on the instant, and it was plain that she remem- 
bered the night's violence even as little as I. At the 
least she did not draw it between us like a curtain. She 
regarded me in a kind of puzzlement and her eyes were 
large with sympathy. What arrested me was the nature 
of this sympathy. It was not personal, but such as 
one, at moments of stress, might feel for all human- 
kind. The pause during which we regarded each other 
lengthened. Perhaps she was waiting for me to ques- 
tion her. I was trembling too much to speak. Then 
she said with studied restraint, "I have bad news for 

My heart lurched. I mumbled, "Yes?" 

"I've been to town." 

She waited, carefully examining my face to see if 
her statement held special meaning for me. 

I said, "Yes?" 



Carefully, as if she feared the words might not 
carry, she said, "Moss is dead." 

I leaped up. "How did you know?" 

My mouth was dry. The words at first did not come 
out. They spluttered, cracked and broke up. 

She came forward calmly and sat me in my chair. 
"You are overwrought," she said. 

I worked my mouth. A little moisture returned. I 
flung at her, "Of course, you know he is dead. You 
knew it even before I. It is now the most simple of 
the sorrows you will engage." 

Nothing could shatter her calm. "Of course I knew 
it before you. The notification came while I was at 
your brother's. I am late because I stayed to help." 

"My brother? How could he know?" 

"The Army notified him." 

"The Army," I leaped up, screaming. 

"Yes, Henry," she replied. "The Army. Moss has 
been dead three months." 



7 here comes a moment in excessive 
strain when the body out of the 
economy of its mechanism, with- 
draws from the demands of the mind. My own had 
reached such a pass. It refused to send along the thirf 
threads of the nerves any further shock. As I stood 
there, my flesh shut up in a self -protective paralysis, 
it must have seemed to Ellen that my grief was at the 
least extravagant. 

She could have thought of it only as grief I now 
know. I tried to act as she thought I should act. It 
was in such a way I discovered the body's revolt. And 
the mind's endless energy. Released, it ran like an 
engine idling at high speed. But away from its proper 

A few simple words and a situation desperate be- 
yond remedy had suddenly bettered itself. Indeed, 
would not the entire grounds for alarm have to be 

And I? What was I? How had I known Major 
Brent for what he was and been deluded as to Moss? 
Was it that the humors of matter still besmirched his 
spirit? While Major Brent had worn as thin as the 
air he inhabited? Or had I second sight? Did the 



veil at birth hide from me the intrusion of common 
things ? Was I set apart to suffer the visions of phan- 
toms sifting* through this veil, warped of breath, 
woof ed so fine the spider's glue, beside it, would twine 
as gross as hemp? 

I was not so mad as to think I was done with Major 
Brent. A presence of such formidable proportions 
would not frequent the scene of its mortal life without 
some dreadful purpose. I held to this and to the 
feeling, irrational, unprovable, that somehow Moss 
had interfered, perhaps even to stay its execution. I 
felt hope, the bright gleam of it flashing in the whirl 
of my mind. But things were none too clear. Perhaps 
it was given me to understand this purpose but to re- 
main tongue-tied. To savor the saving words but feel 
them dry up overnight like a cut flower. To fail. 

To fail because we, the sensible inheritors, will not 
face the need for any such return. When we admit 
the possibility, and it is always with cowardly reserva- 
tions, in our earth-bound blindness we see no farther 
than some sentimental explanation. This is our pitiful 
limitation. We cannot comprehend life out of time 
or without matter; yet we believe in it. We are at- 
tracted to and repelled by it. Witness the desperate 
need to come to grips with, to explain it, to take com- 
fort from our fear of it, which is the fabric of all 
religious experience and the source of the great en- 
telechies of philosophy and the ritual of churches. 

But always the vocabulary fails. We have words: 
spirit, soul, life after death. We have myths: fallen 



angels, gardens of Paradise, the resurrection of the 
body . . . Yet what are these but material definitions 
made by the senses recoiling from timely limits and 
from the corruption of the body into which, at last, 
they must disappear? How can we, fastened to and 
made dizzy by the turning of the earth, see but as 
the drunkard sees or speak other than with a thick 

Prolonging the period of shock, so that some way 
I might readjust myself to Ellen, I wondered . . . had 
I blundered upon the mystery of mysteries ? And 
why was it I who must be drawn into the expanse 
of this passionate emptiness, fragmentary memories 
of which all men guard in the back closets of their 
minds, not knowing the meaning but only that there 
is meaning, as simple tribesmen perform acts of ritual 
about the shards of their past, with no memory of 
why or what they propitiate? I can only speak, like 
my brothers, with the tongue of matter. I therefore 
speak falsely even as I report the violent secret of 
the gods. Or if not that secret, then the shadow of 
the tension on the horizon. 

Ellen came over to me. "You must take hold of 
yourself," she said gently, touching my arm. 

"Yes, yes, of course," I said. 

"Come on. A little food will do us good. Let's go 
down, have a drink, and get supper." 

With a new assurance she took me in charge and 
I moved in the tow of her energy like a child. We 
went down the back way to the kitchen. Briskly she 



put on her apron. I shook up the fire in the stove and 
soon had it going. She must have been tired from a 
too-full day, but she went about getting the meal as 
if we were playing at house. 

"You poor dear/' she said, looking into the warmer. 
"You didn't eat your dinner. You must be starved." 

"I was worried about you," I answered, looking at 
the potatoes lying in their shriveled skins, the fried 
onions limp and draining grease. But it was the odor 
of the thick bread, from which one triangular piece 
had been cut away, which made me withdraw; and 
for a moment it seemed to cast about Ellen's efforts 
a cheerless miasma, that smell of frostbite leftover 
potatoes have and the too-heavy soakings of warm 

She said, "Maybelle knows better than to make that 
kind of bread. I shall certainly speak to her in the 

I said, "What made you go to town?" 

She seemed not to hear my question. I was aware in 
the click of her heels, the pause before the icebox 
that she had heard me. She said, "Fix me that drink, 
will you? And then separate these eggs." 

I quickly had the drinks made. We touched glasses 
and fingers. "Prosit" she said and smiled. Her eyes 
became grave and she leaned forward and kissed me. 
"Darling, I know what a terrible shock it is. Moss 
was so fond of you. And you much more than an uncle 
to him." She added softly, "But you will be com- 



"There are things I must ask you/' I said. "Things 
I don't understand." 

"I know, darling." And then, "You must go in to 
see your brother tomorrow. He is taking it hard, too 
hard. I think I felt sorrier for him than for Madge. 
After all, women can stand these things better." 

Briskly changing her tone, "Now if you'll do the 
eggs and wash the lettuce. Oh, it's in the car. Will 
you bring my things in?" 

I stepped out of the dark hall into the lesser dark- 
ness of the night. The stars were out, the sky was 
clear. I watched the flickering patches of light, so 
cold and bright, and for all the eyes that had sought 
them, terrifyingly remote, forever removed from hu- 
man involvements. I shivered. There was a chill to 
the air, the first warning of winter. I took a deep 
breath and went to the car and picked up the bags of 
groceries. As I turned, I saw a dark shape waiting at 
the side of the drive. 

"Who's that?" I asked sharply and leaned against 
the car to brace myself. 

The figure moved forward, hesitantly but surely. 
"It's me, Boss." 

"You, Johnny?" I had raised my voice out of the 
need to control it. 

"You needs help?" 

"No, no," I said. "I can manage." 

He did not go away but remained where he was, 
and I where I was, with my back against the car. I let 
him wait, for I knew what he was here to find out. I 



let him wait, waiting myself, now that I had to phrase 
it, for an intuitive grasp at meaning. At last I said, 
and my own voice surprised me, remote, apart from 
me, as though it spoke out of the air and the air's dis- 
tances had brought it from some far region of truth. 
"I went into the woods, and you would not follow. I 
went because I knew that I would find there some 
clearer meaning, and I thought that I had a part and 
that that part was to dispel the encroaching return of 
evil. Its rapid advance I had witnessed, but I could 
not define it. I knew the time was fast running out. 
And this was all I knew. The danger I sensed; I did 
not assess it. I lost my way and later found that the 
lost way was the right way. I saw my nephew Moss ; 
I saw the pit into which he had gone; I saw the one 
who had drawn him there. And then I came to the 

After a pause Johnny asked, "Mister Moss daid?" 

"Yes," I replied, and my irony reached into the 
night. "But he did not die at The Grove" 

A slight movement of the immobile figure told me 
the effect my words had had. 

"No. No, he died three months ago, miles away, 
across the waters." I felt the pure clarity of the words 
as they slipped across the night. 

"You say you seen him at the pit?" 

Momentarily Johnny had lost his composure. 

"Going toward it." 

I waited, for what I was not quite sure, for some 
discovery he had withheld, an apology for his equivo- 



cal actions, but he quickly recovered himself. He 
said, "A mile don't mean nothen to a dead man." 

"But he's been here. I saw him." Then I snapped, 
"Didn't you?" 

I could hear my breath coming quick as I waited. 
He could not evade this question. Had I not brought 
him to the study where Moss was? Had I not given 
Moss into his care? My voice insisted, "Didn't you?" 

The night seemed to grow darker, or did my eyes 
film, straining to see across the dividing space between 
us, leaning into it, to trap some expression, some dis- 
closing movement of his body. But he receded. His 
powerful figure withdrew as into a murky fog. But 
his voice was not lost. It spoke in the formal courtesy 
I had come to learn as the barrier I could not breach. 
"No, sir," he said. "I never seen him." 

"You never saw him?" 

In my anger for the thing slipping away I stepped 
forward. I saw him plainly now, not a yard away, 
face me with his habitual dignity. And the smooth, 
silky tones, "Yes, sir. You brought me to yore room. 
You tole me he war there. It warn't my place to dis- 
pute you. No, sir. But I never seen him myself." 

"But the food you took him?" 

"I throwed hit to the chickens." 

"But the bed you made?" 

"I never made hit but oncet." 

I was close to him now, close enough to see the 
sweat bead on his forehead, and his eyes roll. Then 
I said right into his face, "Well, what was he doing 



here? Why did I think it was my nephew? And he 
all the time dead somewhere in the Pacific." 

Johnny stepped back a step. He said very quietly, 
"Maybe he come here to tell you sump'm. Maybe he 
done tole you, kin you cipher hit." 

My gaze must have wandered, for as I looked into 
the darkness to question him further, he was gone. 

And then I heard Ellen's voice. "Where are you, 

I saw that I had dropped the bundles. I picked them 
up and went slowly toward the back kitchen door. 



A could see alarm spread from 
V the corner of her eye, but she 
C — *>/ made the error of trying to cover 
it up. As I set the bundles down, she said, "You need 
a haircut. And a bath. You mustn't let yourself go 
because we live in the country. It makes you look, oh 
look so weird. I know now why the English colonials 
make such a ritual of the toilet. " 

"They are bored," I said. 

"What made you so long? I was beginning to be 

"I ran into Johnny," I said casually. At least I had 
meant to be casual. 

"At this time of night? What did he want? Any- 
thing wrong?" 

"No. Just the usual thing." 

She knew I was lying. Her manner became brisk 
again. "Well, supper is nearly ready. As soon as I 
put the meat on and make the bread. You can do the 
salad and I'll be ready to pull it together." She was 
kneeling at the flour bin. "I've poured you another 
drink. It's on the table." 

"I hadn't finished the first one," I said. 



"Oh," she replied. "Well, let's make it a loving cup." 

"Let's," I said. 

I took a long drink from mine and felt the hot sting 
at the bottom of my stomach. And then quickly I set 
to work. My hands broke the leaves from the lettuce 
head and I tossed them into a pan of cold water. I 
washed and picked the cress; threw in several leaves 
of the darker spinach ; put some eggs on to boil. I took 
another drink. I began to feel better, much better, re- 
stored now as the spirits entered my blood and followed 
its intricate pattern into the veins. "It's wonderful 
what whisky can do for you," I said. 

"You needed it, darling. You looked dreadfully un- 

"And you looked tired." 

"Yes, I've had rather a day of it." 

"What made you run into town? You must have 
made up your mind in a hurry." 

"I did rather. Let's not go into it now." 

"It's almost as if you knew . . ." 

She turned to me. For the first time she seemed a 
little shaken. 

"It is eerie," she said. 

"You mean Moss?" 

"Oh, the whole thing." 

She broke off. Her voice resumed its light con- 
versation tone. "I bought some tomatoes. They looked 
good for so late in the season." 

"Maybe I'd better marinate them," I said. "Where 
are they?" 



"In the top of that sack on the table. The small 

I reached down and brought them out, three large 
beautiful red tomatoes. I could tell they were solid 
meat through to the heart, with no hard green core, 
but perhaps a little ripe — so that they would leak 
around the seed. 

"These ought to be drained first, shouldn't they?" 

I held one up. It was almost ready to burst with 

"It's easy to see why they were called love apples," 
I said. 

"The old people thought to eat them was to die, 
I've heard," she said. 

"Do you suppose they made the connection?" 

"Love sometimes kills," Ellen answered me gently. 

I sensed that she had paused and that she had spoken 
out of some inner fear and that she was unaware that 
she had spoken. Not since her return, since the stroke 
of her news, had I felt so near to the rending of the 
veil which hid us from the truth. But how could I 
get her to tell me precisely what she feared? 

I prompted : "There's an older truth about love and 

"Well, I don't want to hear it. Not tonight any- 

For a while after this the kitchen was silent, except 
for the light familiar sounds we made at our separate 
jobs. Into this silence gradually came, almost as if 
invoked, the feeling of communion as we went about 



the common meal together. I was ravenously hungry, 
I who had felt no appetite all day, and the smell of 
food, its promise of restoration, took on a tremendous 
significance. For a moment my exhausting vigil seemed 
as remote as some old fable lingering on in the mind 
from childhood. I went over to Ellen and put my arms 
around her and we kissed as we had not kissed for a 
long time. No words passed; there was no need for 
words, those props to faulty communication. 

I released her and she began to make up the bread. 
It seemed right that she should pass from my embrace 
to this, for her movements were a ritual as old as the 
world. A little frown shaded her eyes, her arms rose 
and fell in effortless rhythm, her hands seemed to pun- 
ish and caress the flesh-colored dough. My eye fol- 
lowed the next step in observation: the dough was 
flesh-colored but it was not the color of life. My 
nerves were still inflamed. I stepped back a little from 
the biscuit block, for surely now I saw the meaning 
of Ellen's motion: she did the things with her hands 
one does to bring life back to the body of the drowned. 
Unaware that I had withdrawn, as though she still 
felt me there participating, she rolled the bread to the 
proper thickness and then took her biscuit cutter and 
with quick wrist motions cut the dough, lifting the 
small round pieces into the pan. 

"Open the oven door, will you?" she said. 

Her request had the sound of words, any words, 
which may be spoken but whose meaning only the initi- 
ate can understand. 




The heat blew into our faces. As she leaned forward, 
her eyes glistened. Slowly she shoved the pan into 
the oven's mouth and I, as if the time had come to 
play my part, lifted the door until it clicked to with 

We stood by the stove a moment. 

"I do hope they will rise/' she said. 

"Well, let's drink to the resurrection," I replied. 

"Don't be sacrilegious, darling." She shuddered 
slightly. "It's bad luck." 

I looked for our glasses. They were empty. "We're 
down to the loving cup," I said. 

I held the tumbler toward her ; her hands were dusty 
with flour. 

She drank, and then I drank. 

"You'd better hurry with your salad, dear. It won't 
be long now." 

I rubbed the garlic until its strength hovered at the 
bowl's mouth, and then I picked up the lettuce, won- 
derfully fresh and crisp. I began to dry it. 

"I'll declare, the water has done a lot for this." 

"I know," she said. "It wasn't very good, but it was 
the best I could find. You don't get good lettuce out of 
stores. We must try to grow fall lettuce in the gar- 

"The sun would burn it up." 

"I wonder why," she sighed, "it will only grow well 
in the spring of the year?" 

"I've told you. It's all greenness and water. It can't 



stand the sun. It's a plant that goes to seed quickly. 
There are people like that." 

She caught my eyes, saw where the suggestion had 
led me, and said very softly, "Like . . ." 

"I suppose. Like Moss." 

We hung on the vast abyss his name made, when I 
deliberately broke the mood. I reached for the loving 
cup and handed it to her. "Let's drink to Moss/' I 

"All right, darling. Let's." 

She raised the tumbler and held it before her for a 
moment with both hands. The light had struck the 
heavy glass and made a thin stream of fire in the amber 
liquid, so that it seemed to take on life from Ellen's 
hands. And then it came to me, looking at her with 
that clarity which can only be the focus of the true 
vision that I was in the presence of beauty which 
men of all time have been unable to resist, whose grace 
drives mad or leads to salvation — a grace impossible 
therefore miraculous, of incorruptible innocence and 
voluptuous play inexhaustible, the immortal heart 
spending and restoring at the same stroke. 

"To our Moss !" she said. The shadow returned to 
her eyes. She sipped the drink and then passed the 
tumbler to me. 

I grasped it. 

"To Moss who will never die !" 

And then I drained the glass. We faced each other 
and did not move. 



"You are smiling?" she said. 

"It's nothing. The most curious thing. Something 
completely irrelevant just popped into my head." 

"But what?" 

"I'm ashamed. I don't understand." 

"I want to know." 

"I was thinking of Jim. A colored boy on the home 


"What has it to do with Moss ? Nothing. Absolutely 

"Well," she said, "what about Jim?" 

"Once at communion, when the chalice passed, he 
turned it up as I did just now and drank it down. He 
said, 'I love my Jesus so much, I'm goen drink him 
all up.'" 

"Darling," Ellen said firmly, "what you need is food. 
And plenty of it. Get busy with that salad." 

And I did, and she got busy. The light tap of her 
heels, the low clatter of dishes, her quick movements 
from kitchen to dining room, the ordered array of 
table gear, the last minute's seasoning — all of this, 
bending over the salad bowl, I half saw, half heard. 
From dish to dish, from table to oven, back and forth, 
she was now lost in that last act of pulling the meal 
together. I waited, expectant ; and then squeezed from 
mouth to stomach, I took the blind spasm and the whirl, 
the afterfaintness, the swallow, and knew that only 
food could save me from passing out. Concentrating, 
I walked a quick step to the dining room with the salad. 



The silver, the china, the bottle of wine, were in place, 
pure and shining, with the air of expectancy and the 
promise of fulfillment which the board takes on before 
one sits down to eat. Very carefully I walked back 
to the kitchen. In the bread boat Ellen was laying out 
the white napkin. 

I waited. She opened the oven door. "The bread is 
done," she said. 

"Good. I can't wait much longer." 

"Here," she commanded. "Take these dishes in and 
be sure to put them on the pads." 

I then brought the meat and put it before me. I 
stood, waiting for her; and she entered, bringing the 
bread boat, with the napkin folded three ways over 
the biscuit. She set it to her right and then took her 

"Now we can begin," she said and a sigh passed her 

I made a quick blessing and began to carve. The 
plates passed back and forth. In reverent tones of 
praise I said, "What wonderful food!" 

"Thank you, love." 

We did not speak again until the pangs of hunger 
had been appeased, sighing and sitting back in our 

"I've got to catch my breath," I said. 

"And I. My, but I was starved." 

"I never saw you eat so," I said in a teasing way. 

"I never had such need before." 

At that moment, looking across the board now in 



such disarray, above the crumbs, the bits of food, the 
stains on the white cloth, above the dishes our appetites 
had emptied, Ellen and I at the same instant caught 
each other's eye and smiled. It was a secret smile, 
perfect in its sympathy, almost perfect in its under- 
standing. I knew at last that spiritual unity which 
is the end of marriage. And I knew that I might now 
speak and she would understand. 

But she spoke first, a little sadly but with no false 
sentiment. She said, "One would think we had for- 
gotten Moss. But we needed this. Particularly you, 
darling, to help you bear up in your sorrow and the 
greatness of your disappointment. You thought of 
him as your heir. Thoughts of him have made us feel 
justified in our struggle with this old place." 

"Helen," I said abruptly, "his death is our salvation. 
I am going to take you away from The Grove. The 
place is haunted. We will be haunted if we stay." 

"Darling, you called me Helen." 

"My tongue must be a little thick." 

"You almost drank too much." 

"Yes," I said with awe which I hardly understood, 
"I almost did. But I am sober now. We are going to 
clear out of here. And tomorrow." 

"Perhaps," she replied and the resonance of her 
voice made me tremble, "perhaps you will change your 

"It's made up," I replied, but the words died away. 

"I have other news for you," she said, dropping her 
eyes to look up quickly and frankly. 


o* HA ME F0% EVIL 

"Yes," I whispered, sitting straight in the chair, 
sensing that from her lips would come the confession 
which would free or forever bind us to whatever fatal 
entanglements I had involved us in. Wild, mad thoughts 
raced through my mind as I endured the pause she 
made; but wild, mad, driving me beyond hope and 
despair, I sensed my inability to foresee. 

"Yes," I said again, and my voice must have told 
her how unbearable was my suspense, for she said 
quickly, but in a voice so low that I thought I had mis- 
took it : 

"I am going to have a baby." 

I suppose I merely sat without expression, without 
sign of any intelligence on my face. She hurried on, 
"I know we'd thought this couldn't be. But I've sus- 
pected it for some time. And the doctor assures me it is 
so." And then, as I still sat motionless, without re- 
sponse, she added, "The child will come in the spring." 



/IT was nothing less than a mir- 
yacle: that a chronic sterility 
C — ^ should suddenly disappear with- 
out reason or possible explanation, and furthermore at 
The Grove which I had hoped to regenerate, thinking 
less of myself than of a larger pattern, although natu- 
rally I made a part of that pattern. After the surprise, 
the moment of unbelievable elation, the coincidence 
began to seem a little too pat. A miracle, of course, is 
a miracle. It is not to be explained. One explains the 
unexplainable by calling it a miracle. One does not 
really expect to witness it. And there was no other way 
to regard our prospect of an heir. If we had deliber- 
ately denied ourselves a child, later to reverse our de- 
cision . . . even then we might have expected a reluctant 
nature to deal with. But this — it was a bolt from the 

It came to me, not at first of course, but gradually 
and much later, that the changed status represented 
possibilities which I at first in no way even glimpsed. 
I could not have been expected to see beyond the fact, 
and a fact above all of such exciting vistas. At the 
moment it answered everything. It dispelled all my 
suspicions as to Ellen's communication with the sinister 



specter which haunted our lives, for obviously a preg- 
nant woman is strange. Obviously she has had com- 
munication with the mysterious workings of life which 
a man cannot comprehend, and which certainly I, given 
my absorption with another mystery, equally insoluble, 
was in no way prepared to suspect. 

But also it gave me a firm answer to what had come 
to seem an irresponsible, a romantic, act. Now I knew 
that my good Daemon had deliberately led me to The 
Grove. Not to escape the accident of the world but to 
come into my own. I was now to be the head of a fam- 
ily, a true family, returned to my proper place, and 
that place physically and spiritually of a sound and ex- 
plicable history. 

I remained in this condition of elation for what was 
left of the fall season. We did not have that year a 
slow dying away into winter. The last of September 
was crisper than usual ; it was even cold. And by early 
October we had had a light frost. Johnny had told me 
that the shucks were thick on the corn. I knew what 
that meant — a long hard winter. As time approached 
when the tobacco had to be cut, I had mighty little time 
for thinking. It rained a good deal, and when it didn't 
rain the days were cloudy. That worry which comes 
from the prospect of losing the year's work, of not pay- 
ing taxes or the interest on the mortgage, began to 
creep through the farm. Every time we would meet 
we would tell ourselves that there was plenty of time. 
We would look at the tobacco, a fair enough crop, and 
say to each other there is plenty of time. And then we 



would look at the overcast sky. You've got to have 
sun when it's cut to make the leaves fall, or you can't 
put it on the sticks. 

From the moment I took the lead I found the ten- 
sion exhilarating. Formerly, emergencies and crises 
had filled me with the nameless fears that come from 
an inability to act. But this had passed. I found I 
had a real interest in what was going on. I found I 
could act. I had that sense of holding things in the 
palm of my hands ; and it was due to my management 
that the tobacco was cut and hung in the barns three 
days before the killing frost. My neighbors were not, 
all of them, so successful. A few lost the great part of 
their crops, many too great a fraction. My reputation 
among these hardheaded people reached a height which 
certainly I and more certainly they had never expected. 
Even Johnny showed me greater deference. There 
was no marked change in his attitude, but he would 
ask my advice on little things, even on matters he un- 
derstood better than I. Somehow I felt that the life 
of the place, for decades submerged deep within the 
ground, stirred again and slowly was groping through 
the hard-packed soil to air and light. 

As Johnny and I parted one evening at dusk — we 
had been discussing the farm's luck — he turned to me 
and said, "Folks says you talks to the devil." 

"Why, what on earth do they mean?" 

The shadows of the night were rushing fast about 
us, so that I could not well see his eyes, but for an in- 
stant I was aware that they no longer regarded me 



from their habitual reticence. They fixed upon me an 
intimate, almost conspiratorial gleam. It quickly died. 
He said, "Hit puzzles them how you done it." 

"It ought not to/' I said, a little annoyed without 
knowing why. "They've cut and hauled enough tobacco 
to know how it is done." 

"Yessir, that's the p'int," he replied softly. 

I could get no more out of him. Nor was it neces- 
sary, for the drift of his remark was clear. What was 
not clear was why he felt it necessary to inform me. 

I repeated the conversation to Ellen. She looked at 
me very strangely, which also caused me to wonder. 
She was already beginning to show, as they say, and 
her face was changing somewhat ; so it may have been 
nothing more than her condition. And certainly her 
reply was very sensible. "I wouldn't pay any attention 
to that," she said. "You know how envious country- 
people are." 

I hadn't really paid any attention to it, not to take it 
seriously, that is, until Ellen advised me not to. I 
realized then that it had worried me a little, or rather 
that a grain of anxiety lay far back in my head and 
this incident had jolted it to the fore. Soon after we 
went in to supper and after supper sat down in our 
common living room and she and I began to talk about 
one thing and another. I remember hearing my broth- 
er's name mentioned and then sometime after Ellen 
saying, "You are not listening." 

"But I am. You were talking about Moss Senior and 



"I was saying," she answered with annoyance, "the 
stone they want for Moss's grave is too ornate. And 
it is rushing things so. It will be months before his 
body is brought back." 

"I must have dozed off." 

"Go to bed then." 

I stood up to go. "I'll check the fires in the barns 
first," I said. 

I heard her voice, waveringly, as from a distance, 
"Well, go ahead. Don't stand there in the middle of the 

"I'm going." 

Once outside the night air braced me and I could 
think clearly again. I was absolutely sure I had got up 
to go to bed. I had had no intention of going to the 
barns. Johnny would be there, or if not there, he would 
have checked the fires and left one, of his sons in charge 
if he thought there was any need for it. I had stood 
up, opened my mouth to yawn — I was sure of this — and 
the words came out. They were not my words. No . . . 
they were not my words, but they were meant for me . . . 

A light wind had come up and blew the wood smoke 
in the direction of the house. For some time the smell 
had sifted down the air like a clean, sharp spice. Now it 
came in heavier gusts, insistent, commanding. I began 
walking toward the first barn. 

Even before I could see him, I knew Johnny was 
there. I called out, in no loud way but my voice went 
far, "Things all right?" And a little after I saw his 
shape against the large barn doors. 



He did not answer until I came up. " 'Backer's still 
high. I picked up the fars a little." 

"There's a ring around the moon," I said. 

"Yessir, hit due to rain." 

We were silent awhile. The night was soft. The 
smell from the barn, so clean and sharp, was somehow 
comforting. I wondered why I had felt uneasy, now 
that all things seemed clear at last, and right. I felt the 
sudden need to be confidential. We were both of us 
looking up at the sky. I dropped my eyes to a group of 
trees at the edge of the woods. The shadows there bred 
a stillness closer than the spaces of the sky. Looking 
into them, I said, "The Grove will have an heir some- 
time this spring." 

I could see Johnny drop his gaze and fix it on the 
trees before us. Together we stared into the shadows 
and after an appropriate pause, he said, "You shore 
means to hold fast to the plow." 

I don't know what I had expected, some conventional 
compliment, some acknowledgment which would show 
me he understood my fresh strength, my changed 
status. Perhaps I even hoped he would hint that now I 
deserved a son. Certainly I did not expect so ambigu- 
ous a remark and almost at once I felt a chill in the air, 
a desire to go, my confidence somehow betrayed. I 
could have kicked myself. What a fool to lay myself 
open in any such way ! I said coolly, "I will take a look 
at the fires and go to bed." 

Johnny did not stir. I looked at him expectantly. He 
said, "Hit's turrible smoky in there." 



"I'll take a look anyway." 

He undid the chain on the small side door with no 
other word, and I quickly stepped inside. I went head 
down into the stifling, flickering air. Almost at once 
my eyes began to water and the hot acrid smoke made 
me choke for breath. The little lips of fire, some slightly 
blazing, some mere red glows, lay in orderly fashion 
along the floor of the barn. I had never seen a barn 
going at night, and for one crazy moment I had the 
sense that the fires came out of swollen slits in the 
ground. I stood for a moment, breathing carefully 
through my nose and squinting, looking into the gloom. 
The four walls gave an unbearable sense of pressure, 
the solid tons of leaf above, the close ranks of green- 
ish-brown blades thrusting downward their curling 
points, the bright points of the gleams below, driving 
the thin columns of smoke upward into the parting 
leaves, the darkness shifting, whirling in the reddish 
haze. My head began to whirl. Johnny wandered 
noiselessly through the smoke, reaching up, feeling, 
gently touching a leaf here, a leaf there. Once he turned 
my way. His eyes were open and set in a steady gaze. 
I reached up and fingered the crisp twist in the moist 

And then I heard it, we both heard it at the same 
moment. We both turned at the same moment. There 
came a slight puff from the center of the barn, a few 
sparks, and a chunk breaking in two. My eyes were 
stinging, but they dried up at what they saw : the figure 
of a man stooping, bent over the fire. Gently his arms 



began to flap like a bird's, slowly, steadily, as if he 
were fanning the embers. I looked more sharply and 
he seemed to be pushing the sawdust against the burn- 
ing chunks. I could almost swear the sawdust moved. 
As I stared, the motion of his hands changed to a pat 
and a scoop, and then to a slow squeeze, as if they 
were gathering up something that was about to escape. 

Suddenly he became very still and I knew that he 
was aware that he was being watched. Almost im- 
perceptibly his head bent to an upward twist, moving 
through the smoke. So still was the rest of his body, I 
thought of a jointed manikin whose neck was being 
moved by invisible strings. But it was no manikin. It 
was my enemy, Major Brent, and again his gaze was 
fixed to mine. Again I had the feeling that I had taken 
him by surprise. His face, as red as the coals he was 
hovering over, distinctly carried an appeal, but it was 
so loathsome in its naked directness he must have seen 
how it repelled me. In a flash he was threatening me, 
and the cold fury of it left me shivering in the heat of 
the barn. 

And then my eyes watered. Furiously I wiped them, 
but when I saw again Major Brent was nowhere. 
Where he had crouched, I saw only a thick column of 
smoke. It wavered as though something had disturbed 
it and then grew even, f unneling steadily upward until 
it lost itself among the tips of the leaves. 

Outside I waited for Johnny. He was leaning against 
the small portal. His hands with the swift, easy move- 
ment of long accustomed intimacy drew the chain 



through and noiselessly dropped a twig into a link. He 
remained for a moment pressed against the door, his 
head slightly bent and waiting. 

I said hoarsely, "Did you see what I saw?" 

It seemed a long while before he answered. 

"I seen a chunk burn in two." 

"And what else?" 

Slowly, as one recollects the image before speaking, 
he said, "Hit flared, the sparks busted loose, but they 
ain't no harm to them'' And then in a sudden change 
of tone, almost to a low rhythmic chant, "Firing a 
barn of tobaccer ain't the same by night. I knows 
what's there. I knows time I steps inside the do'. I 
can lay down in bed and know what's there. I knows 
what's in one fare and I knows what's in an'er." His 
voice trailed off. ... "I don't have to see what I sees. 
I knows." 




trangely enough, after I had 
set out for the house, my first re- 
action was a feeling of relief. 
The promise of an heir for The Grove had taken Major 
Brent by surprise. At the moment when he thought to 
draw near his chasm of victory, his entire campaign 
miscarried and he disappeared from view. Not that I 
felt for a moment he had gone for good, but as weeks 
passed into months, I confess I had hopes, even if doubt 
burned beneath like a pilot light. Now it was flaring, 
in the brilliancy of its flame I saw what had happened. 
Major Brent had not fled : he had merely gone under- 
ground. This meant a change of tactics on his part. 
Failing in direct assault, if it is possible to refer to 
any of his methods as direct, he would now try us by 
surprise. Toward this end he lay in wait, and in a 
secret place which showed a public face. It was cun- 
ning of him but not cunning enough. I had found him 

He had not expected me. Of this I was certain, for 
how else was I to interpret that appeal of his, so 
quickly changing into a threat ? No, I was sure I had 
happened on a clue to his vulnerability. This gave me 
a feeling of self-confidence, in spite of the immense 



danger and everything now to lose, for who could 
believe other than that all his evil would turn upon the 
child ? He must have known that I was come too late to 
The Grove. He must also have surmised that I would 
prepare it for our son. 

In the acceptance of the changed situation I had no 
immediate fears for Ellen. She was not free of dan- 
ger certainly ; the danger was tremendously increased, 
but it was the kind I could face because she would face 
it with me. Indeed, I had now become her support, 
rather than she the object of my care. So it came 
about I did not go at once to the house but wandered 
over the place, questioning, trying to understand. 

Gradually the truth showed itself through the con- 
fusion of half-truths, false conjectures, seemingly in- 
terminably mixed and obscure, like the shake of a puz- 
zle when the disordered pieces fall each into its proper 
place and the whole is visible. The truth seemed simple 
enough, at least its paraphrase did. False romantic 
that I was when I first came with my idea, how was 
I to know when I bought a run-down farm to restore 
that I had bought nothing, that the fiction to own, in 
spite of deed and possession, describes the most ephem- 
eral of all artifices? How was I to know that I had 
put myself in way of the past and the future, bemused 
by the mad fancy that I could reach into history and 
regenerate, a function proper only to a god ? In greater 
humility and wisdom my idea gave way to a fuller 
vision of the rich complexities of circumstance and the 
unknowable mystery of the nature of The Grove. In 



this fuller knowledge it came to me with the sudden- 
ness of revelation: was not my idea the obverse of 
Major Brent's act, with the difference that he had died 
unrepentant and the vanity of his act bound him in tor- 
ment to the shadowy air of the place, haunting it until 
that time he could work his release ? And it was just in 
this that our danger lay. Unpurged, unregenerate spirit 
that he was, he would know only to seek his release 
through a repetition of the original error. But there 
is a blindness to phantoms. Beyond history, they think 
they may perpetuate it. I slapped my leg with glee as 
I thought of this. At least this was the conclusion I had 
reached that night and, once reached, the logic of warn- 
ing Ellen without delay sent me toward the house. 

I found her sitting up in bed, with the bedside lamp 
burning but with a dim flame. As I came up I saw at 
once the strain on her face. 

"What is it?" I asked in alarm. 

"Where have you been?" she demanded in a tight, 
injured tone. "You've been away for hours. I was 
about to dress and look for you." 

"Is that all?" I asked with relief. 

"Is that all? Is that all?" She repeated. "Leaving 
me to worry, not to know, lying here thinking of all the 
things that could happen. And in my condition." 

"I'm sorry, darling, so sorry," I said softly, sitting 
beside her and taking her hand. 

She withdrew it petulantly. "I can explain,"** I said 

"Explain? Explain what?" 



She looked up and her eyes were dark, swimming in 
dark pools. 

It was not yet time. 

I undressed and got into bed and before I could 
speak, she turned toward me, drawing her legs up, 
with her head close to mine and her hair outspread 
on the pillow. "Sometimes, dear, I get so afraid." 

I ran my fingers carefully along her arm, barely 
touching the flesh and after a while I heard her sigh. 
And then she said, "It is only when I am tired or some- 
thing makes me nervous, but I can't help thinking of 
those poor women. I know it is silly and that it was long 
ago ..." 

"Poor women?" I asked, not following. 

"Yes. The women in the garden." 

"Oh," I said. "Oh . . . Major Brent's wives." 

"All of them died in childbed." What sorrow her 
voice carried as she said it, then, "I just can't get them 
out of my mind." 

"You poor darling! They've nothing to do with 

I drew her into my arms again. She snuggled close 
into my body and we lay together in the comfort of 
this embrace. When I felt her relax and grow quieter, 
I decided the time had come. I knew I must not be 
startling. I must in no way frighten her. And to me 
my voice sounded casual enough. It seemed in no way 
the bearer of what must have been to her strange tid- 
ings, a voice out of a dream perhaps, with the sharp 



impersonality of a dream. ..." I saw Major Brent 
tonight," I whispered. 

We had reached that hour of the night when the 
heart sleeps, but I felt in hers a skip in the gentle flut- 
tering, then a great lunging stroke. She stirred, drew 
back her head, watching me, her eyes poised on the 
edge of shadow made by the lamp. "What did you 
say?" she asked. 

"I saw Major Brent tonight." 

Very carefully she withdrew from my arms. Her 
hand had scarcely pushed away the unruly hair when 
her bewildered voice said, "What on earth do you 
mean ?" 

"On the earth, yes." I was sitting opposite her. "But 
not from gravity." 

She was shaking me now. "Wake up. You are 

Carefully I placed my hands on her shoulders and 
lifted her around so that the light might show my face. 

"Do I look as if I were dreaming?" 

Her hands fluttered before her, then drew back 
against her breast in instant spasm. In a voice deep, 
harsh, choked, not hers surely, she said, "Your eyes. 
Your eyes," and then in a loud scream, half-animal, 
half-human, she leaped to the floor, where she stood 

I went toward her as carefully as I could, almost 
creeping across the rug, for I knew the slightest jerky 
movement would send her off again. In fact I was so 



shaken by this unexpected reaction to my carefully 
planned attempt not to frighten that I myself was un- 

The distance gradually narrowed between us until 
I was near enough to touch her. "You must calm your- 
self/' I said. "You have behaved out of reason." And 
then more forcefully, "You must think of your child." 

"I must think of my child," she repeated as a child 
would repeat a lesson. And all the while her teeth were 
chattering. I waited for what seemed a long time and 
she said again, "I must." 

"Come now," I said and gently took her by the arm. 

She was very docile as I led her back to bed. 




n the few hours that were left 
to the night I tried to tell her of 
our danger. I went into the his- 
tory of what I had seen. I tried to make clear the nature 
of the menace, how logically it came out of the past. At 
first she asked a few questions, but as I talked she grad- 
ually fell into silence, and once so still had she grown I 
thought she had fallen asleep. But she answered me 
quick enough when I questioned her. Fearing her fears, 
I showed her how much stronger our position had be- 
come since her pregnancy, but that in a way this was 
also our weakness. We must never be off guard. Nor 
must she ever be frightened into any rash act if Major 
Brent appeared to her. He was bound to await the 
right moment, when she would be on a stairway, or in 
some dangerous spot where sight of him could easily 
cause her to lose footing, with what disastrous conse- 
quences she could imagine. I wound up by saying, "It 
is your frailty or mine, some defect of ours, he will 
pounce upon to undo us." 

I had done the best I knew to impress upon her the 
seriousness of the situation, but I must say I was dis- 
appointed at the way she took it. So much depended on 
close alliance between us, and it was just this that was 



somehow lacking. Her disbelief — I could call it nothing 
else — left me for many days in a quandary. Disbelief 
was the last thing I had expected, for obviously our 
ends were the same. Our sympathy and understanding 
had never been closer, and so much depended on giving 
the child a chance. Our sanity, our very lives might 
depend on it. One may imagine how at a loss I was 
when she accused me of being cruel, by telling ghost 
stories when she already had enough to worry her. 
These were more or less her words. It was useless to 
insist that my intention had been anything but that. To 
prove it I showed her how carefully I had gone about 
telling her. I had been matter-of-fact, in no way mak- 
ing it seem strange or unnatural. No, I had kept my 
head. I had been in a way a scientific reporter of the 
menace I had witnessed ; I had even tried to define the 
nature of the evil. And for all my pain to be accused 
of indulging in a cruel jest ! 

I think at least I had made her see that it was no jest- 
ing matter. Early in December my brother Moss Sen- 
ior surprised me by coming out to see us. He had once 
before made a perfunctory visit, to see, as he put it, 
just how big a fool I had been to bury myself away 
from civilization. His conclusion was that I was a 
bigger fool than even he had imagined — which, I re- 
marked, was indeed a large order. So, when I saw him 
turning up the driveway, I knew he had not returned 
out of a sense of pleasure or for my society. 

From his manner I sensed that Ellen had communi- 
cated with him in some way, and to save her embarrass- 



ment I took him walking over the place. I walked him 
hard with what grim delight one may imagine ; showed 
him the crops in the barns, the stock in the lots, the 
plans for the coming year. I showed him the good land, 
the land that had to be rebuilt ; I showed him the rav- 
ages of the past. At last, when he was on the verge of 
apoplexy I sat him down on a log to let him catch his 
breath. Then I said, "Now, Brother, what did you 
really come to see me about ?" 

He coughed, hummed and hawed, but at last came 
out with it. "What is this about you seeing ghosts ?" 

"Did Ellen write you?" 

He hesitated, in his clumsy way trying to protect her. 
As if she needed protection from me ! The idea was so 
preposterous I laughed out right in his face. Such a 
laugh would have made him angry at any other time, 
but I had fairly exhausted him, and much of his old 
contempt for me, which was only a part of his contempt 
for mankind, had softened since his son's death. The 
flesh, I noticed, hung loose on his jowls. His eyes, usu- 
ally so sharp and cold, had begun to water. No, defi- 
nitely he was not the man he had been. But something 
of his old self came out, as he stood up. "Ghost stories 
is damn poor entertainment for a pregnant woman." 

I said coldly, "What did Ellen write you?" 

He reached in his pocket and handed me the letter : 

I have been thinking of you and Madge a great 
deal lately. Now that I am going to have a child 
your own sadness seems so much more real to me. 
I feel so close to you now. My thoughts of the 



child I am bearing, of the dangers he will en- 
counter, of that first risk of air and light, seem all 
so tremendously grave. I try to get a better per- 
spective by telling myself how narrow are my 
fears to your sorrow — the years of care and 
thought, the years of fear after fear for his 
safety. And then the sudden brutal news. 

I suppose it is a kind of hysteria — but I often 
feel that we are so far away here, that so much 
could happen — it is hard to get a doctor. And then 
I wonder if this undertaking hasn't been too much 
for your brother. He feels so deeply — he is so 
highly nervous. At first I had thought coming 
here would do him good, but he told me not long 
ago that he saw the ghost of old Major Brent. 
He has got it into his head that it is some kind of 
a threat to us, particularly to the baby — not a very 
cheerful subject of conversation to me right now. 

I was wondering if you could find us a place in 
town, where we could go at least until the baby is 

I feel sometimes that a sort of doom hangs over 
The Grove. Perhaps I'll be seeing ghosts too if 
we spend the long winter months shut up in this 

I tell myself that my foreboding is only a part 
of pregnancy and should not be indulged. . . . 
Don't give this letter too much thought. My love 
to Madge. 


I stood there with the letter in my hand. My poor, 
poor Ellen! To what desperate plight had I brought 
her that she would turn to Moss Senior? To what 



desperate despair had I brought myself in so miser- 
ably failing to reach through to her? Never in my 
trade, where I succeeded modestly in making the illu- 
sions of life seem more real than life itself, never had 
I sweated as I had to present for her the true image 
of reality. Only to be caught, trapped behind the skill 
of my trade, so that she saw what only the world 
would see, a ghost story. I could not lay it to her con- 
dition : the failure lay elsewhere : in my style. 

Major Brent — a ghost story ! How that abominably 
monstrous spirit, hiding in air, breeding pestilence, 
must be chuckling at this turn of affairs ! What des- 
perate irony for me, perfecting the cry of wolf, wolf, 
now to be undone by perfection! 

"You ought to get down on your knees to that little 
woman for what you have done to her," I heard; and 
the arrogance of the tone crossed my nerves like a 
file. For the next few moments I was trembling be- 
yond control. Blind murderous flashes disordered my 
senses. But I took myself in hand. At last, with tre- 
mendous effort I opened my eyes. 

"Let's go back to the house," he said, turning ab- 
ruptly. But I saw. He did not turn quickly enough to 
hide his fear — of me the brother he had always held in 

We did not speak again until we reached the en- 
trance way, when I said, "Obviously it will not be 
good for Ellen here now. Will you find us a place in 

"That's more sense than you've spoken in your whole 


kA kame fo% evil 

life," he replied in a gruff surly way. And then his 
true nature came to the fore even in this situation. 
"Places are hard to get, but I think maybe I can put 
my hands on something. You leave it up to me." 

"I always do," I said. 

My brother had never been one to catch even the 
bluntest shadings of irony, 



'nd so it was settled before he left 
for town; it was settled as the 
tea leaves grew cold in the bot- 
tom of the cups. We all made the best of an embarrass- 
ing situation. Even Moss Senior became civilized in a 
neolithic kind of way. And before he left for town, we 
actually set a date of departure, my brother offering us 
quarters with him in case he had not found us a place 
in the meantime. I protested this and, as it was grow- 
ing late, invited him to spend the night. Ellen pressed 
him, but he refused. Soon thereafter, pleading bad 
roads and the approaching dark, he took his depar- 

I could feel Ellen dreaded the moment when we 
would be alone and we both must face her going be- 
hind my back. I did not tell her that Moss Senior had 
abused her confidence and showed me the letter, for I 
was determined there was to be no further rift in our 
understanding. Whatever the failure it was mine, 
since it had been up to me to communicate. I told her 
quite frankly that I understood, that she must forgive 
me, that what I knew I knew, that I had acted for the 
best, and that for a long time now fleeing The Grove 
had not crossed my mind. I at last was beginning to 



feel at home here, at last the responsible head and equal 
to my responsibility. What I had not realized was her 
own fresh alarm, but I told her that I understood her 
difficulties of belief and thoroughly agreed that what 
she wanted was best, that above all we must think of 
her and the special meaning her pregnancy held for us 
both. She was very relieved and, I think, surprised. 
She kissed me and said, "Oh, I am so glad you under- 

"I do," I said. "But I must tell you I am not a patho- 
logical case." 

She interrupted me quickly. "Of course not, Henry." 

I went on. "There is more around us than the natu- 
ral world." 

"Of course," she said. 

"I am more than your natural husband." 

The sweet sincerity of her reply moves me now, as 
it did then, with all the fresh pity I felt for her and for 
myself as she put her hands lightly on my shoulders 
and said, "You are the father of my child." 

I know I was close to tears, for I had to take her and 
hold her tight, as much to gain control of myself as to 
comfort her. But I could not indulge in the weakness 
of feeling: I must be honest with her and with myself. 
So I said, "But, Ellen dear, you must believe me. I am 
not superstitious. I am not what you may have thought. 
I was never stronger. There is an evil influence here. 
That influence I have met and met again. It is a threat 
to us. It will not go until I make it go." 

She thought a long while before she spoke again. 


^4 HA ME F0% EVIL 

Her words were quietly given, I could see she was 
struggling to understand. "How can you be sure?" 
she asked. 

"How can you be sure of those tea-things there?" 

"Why, they are there," she said. 

"Exactly. And Major Brent is there" — I waved my 
hand toward the outside. 

She lifted an empty cup. "This I can see, touch. 
Can you touch Major Brent?" 

I put my hand on her stomach. She withdrew 
slightly ; then became still, almost poised for flight. We 
both felt it, I the swelling movement roll within her. 
She looked at me. "He just kicked," she said. 

"I felt him," I said. 

Almost desperately she replied, "Don't you see ? He 
is real. He is important." 

"He is." I paused to give my words effect. "But can 
you see him?" 

"Of course not. But he is no less real for that." 

"Exactly. We do not need all our senses. One is 
enough sometimes. I have not touched, but I have seen 
Major Brent." 

"But how can you know? You don't know what 
he looks like." 

"But Johnny does." 

"Johnny!" She threw his name at me in contempt. 

"The descriptions match," I went on. 

She turned away and began piling the tea-things on 
the tray. There was nothing but the soft clatter of 
dishes and tinkle of silver. Suddenly she looked up. 



"All right. But then I must go to town. It is not right 
to make this child suffer any risk, whatever it is." 

"I've agreed." 

This seemed to calm her. And I let it go at that and 
considered that it came off well. What use to tell her 
that nothing could be gained by moving to town ? Was 
not the air everywhere familiar to Major Brent? For 
us to leave The Grove would only be to make us more 
vulnerable. To remove ourselves would in no way 
throw Major Brent off the scent. It would only place 
us in strange surroundings. 

There was one thing sure in all of this : my brother. 
He acted true to form. With his usual lack of con- 
sideration for others, he transferred one of his key- 
men to another town so that we could have his house. 
Of course even Moss Senior could not throw the man 
into the streets without warning, the upshot being we 
could not get the house until the first of the year. In 
the meanwhile we were told in lordly fashion we could 
move in with our kinsman. But this I refused to do, 
and Ellen seemed content to stay on at The Grove until 
we could get the house. I made it clear that, if she 
wished, we would go to the local hotel in the interim. 
My thorough willingness to do anything she proposed, 
I think, made Ellen feel she was being somewhat of an 
alarmist and she hurriedly agreed the thing to do was 
to stay on at The Grove until the first of the year. 

Even the weather seemed to conspire to keep us 
there. The days were mild and moist, with brisk chilly 
nights. It was perfect tobacco weather, and the crops 



were all got down and bulked and by Christmas a good 
part of it was stripped. We spent a quiet Christmas, 
thinking how different the next one would be. The rest 
of December went quickly, Ellen busy with the pack- 
ing, and I in straightening out my accounts. We had 
set the following Monday to leave. On Friday the 
worst blizzard the country had known for twenty years 
blew out of the northwest. It began with a heavy 
downpouring rain, a regular gully-washer which lasted 
ten hours, when the wind changed and turned a slow 
drizzle into sleet. The temperature dropped twenty 
degrees in five hours. By the next morning the snow 
was deep on the ground and still falling. We stood to- 
gether at our bedroom window and looked out on the 
wintry world. Hesitantly I said, "This will delay us. 
The roads are solid ice." 

Ellen was so long making any kind of response I 
naturally turned her way. She was staring . . . well, 
she was staring into the frozen outdoors with such dis- 
may, her shoulders drawn in and so pitifully thin and 
her eyes, all their luster gone, protruding in the set 
way of a doll's made for a melodramatic role. "This 
won't last long," I said heartily. "It never does in this 

"I was afraid of this," she said. She repeated the 
words several times with desperate earnestness, as if 
she saw the proof of some truth she alone had been 
sure of. I touched her arm. "Come now. It's not all 
that bad." 

"I won't be able to leave," she said. 



"I promise you. Now make us some tea." 

As it happened, I was a poor weather prophet. 

Each day the thermometer dropped a degree or two. 
When the sun came out, and this was not every day, it 
would rise for a little and then sluggishly drop to its 
previous reading, or below it. The cattle stood hunched 
up in the barn lot, or picking at the frozen wisps of hay 
half sunk in the frozen mass about the barn door. 
When I would go out — there was much to see" to — the 
cold struck me as exhilarating, but soon my face felt 
tight and dead, my nose sharp enough to break and 
always the bite at the tip. The warmth of my body 
drew in as a fire dies away into its coals. 

The most amazing thing was Ellen's acceptance of 
the situation. After that first morning she showed me 
the quality of her courage. Her flurry of despondency 
had worried me. I expected her to grow difficult. But 
not at all. She had no thought of herself or of the 
child she was bearing. It was all for me. She could 
not do enough for my comfort. She made me tea 
whenever I came in from the outdoors. She made warm 
soups and especial dishes I loved. She would rush to 
get my slippers if my feet were wet and cold. She 
made me sit by the fire. She would look at me, when 
I went out, or when I came in, to see if I brought news 
of any bad luck. How intent was her regard before 
rushing off to do some errand that would make things 
more pleasant! She reminded. me of those frontier 
women who molded bullets as they nursed their chil- 
dren. After several days of this I said, "See here, dar- 



ling, you treat me as if I were an invalid. I don't de- 
serve it. You are the one things must be done for." 

"I'm all right," she said quickly. 

"How do you feel?" 

"Fine. Fine." And then she would be off as if she 
had just remembered something that had to be done. 

In the evenings, sitting by the fire, she would pick 
up her sewing and sharpen her eyes on the needle, but 
I could see her watching to see if I had any wishes 
that might make the hours pass more pleasantly. There 
was an element of strain to all this, rather like that 
between bride and bridegroom when they find them- 
selves, at long last, alone with the separateness of their 
personalities and need desperately to wipe out the 

I look back on this as a time, a crucial time, in our 
lives. I was like the sentinel on a dangerous post who 
turns from his intense watch to relieve his eyes and 
rest his spirit at the bright blazing campfire. But what 
could I do? Ellen was making every effort to show 
me that the postponement of our departure did not mat- 
ter. Could I have received this attention coldly and 
kept to my watch ? Such would have been either brutal 
or heroic, and I was fitted to play neither role. Perhaps 
I needed this attention more than I thought ; perhaps I 
was done in, exhausted by the continuous vigil. And 
certainly we had to fill the days and the longer nights, 
and we had only ourselves to fall back upon. Never had 
she loved me with so much frenzy, nor had she ever 
been so lovable. I felt that up to now we had only 



touched the borders of that dark and passionate grove. 

But as the winter, so to speak, dug in I began to feel 
that something false had crept into our relationship. 
It was too intense; it could only properly belong to 
those who die young. It was not the thing to wear out a 
lifetime. And curiously enough with this awareness 
came an awareness of change in the aspect of the out- 
side. For the first week the white world seemed beauti- 
ful — pure, absolute, bringing respite from the con- 
fusion and waste of living. Only in one place was there 
sign of life. Each day in the barn lot, where the stock 
was penned, the brown stains left by the cattle spread 
a little farther, grew a little darker. At first as I passed, 
I would look away. The lot was the one feature, no 
more than a speck in the vast whiteness, which marred 
the purity of what I saw. But it was not long before I 
found myself eagerly glancing toward it, as to some 
beacon, on my trips to and from the house. 

When we were well on into the second week, the 
aspect of things had subtly but violently changed. The 
black poles of the trees stood up out of the white 
ground, as slick and brittle as on the first morning of 
the blizzard ; the barns and the house stood apart, sur- 
rounded, isolated; each object, even the smoke from 
Johnny's chimney, a thin blue haze rising straight up, 
seemed caught in the air. But it was no longer the 
whiteness. It was the stillness now which made the 
disunity of this solitude. 

In the room where I kept a great fire going, and it 
was a cheerful fire, the flames bending over the back 



stick, changing color as the heat became great or small, 
even here, just beyond the circle of the hearth the cold 
waited in the room, and the quiet there was the same 
quiet that had settled everywhere over our world. One 
would pass through it to the fire ; the heat might even 
drive it from the room; but one had only to open the 
door and there it was, in the next room, filling the air, 
waiting. . . . Just as somewhere about, in some bleak 
corner, or in the wide open ways, there was one particu- 
lar spot of air colder, more quiet, but also waiting. . . . 
And then toward the last of the third week the white 
fog drifted in. 




'Y first thought was: it will 
thaw now. My next thought 
was of Ellen. I must tell her. 
After all, disguise it as she had, she desperately wanted 
to go away to have the child. I made her dress and 
then wrap up in her warmest things, without telling 
her why. It seemed a foolish game to play, but I did 
not want her to discover the fog for herself. I wanted 
to show it to her. "But why so mysterious ?" she asked. 
"Never mind/' I said. "You will see." 

Once outdoors I said, "Look. Isn't it beautiful?" 
And I waved my hand as if I had ordered it as a special 
gift for her. 

She caught her breath. "It is beautiful. But why 
did you want to bring me out in it ?" 

We were walking toward the garden. 

"I wanted to be the first to show you. The weather 
is changing. Soon I can take you away." 

"Oh really, darling." Her voice choked ever so little. 

We walked on. I opened the garden gate and we 
paused just inside. 

"How lovely the garden is !" she said. "And how 
unreal !" 

I saw what she meant. All the imperfections left 



by time had been covered. We seemed to be adrift in 
a white cloud, in some unknown ideal place, where we 
were the only inhabitants. The snow and ice had per- 
fected the bordering hedges. The flowering bushes 
which, in summer, showed a few scraggly buds, now 
presented to our gaze the absolute proportions, the 
subdued glitter, of one blooming mass. Our feet 
crunched the walkways. The outlines of the paths were 
faintly visible; and along them we followed the circle 
within the circle, confining the fanlike beds. We wan- 
dered here and there. Once behind the white air the 
garden wall wavered like a shadow. Except for the 
soft crunching steps there was no sound. We moved 
in utter silence. The air was become silence at last 
made visible. Our solitude was complete. 

"The glare no longer pinches my eyes," Ellen said. 

"There's no glare here," I replied. "Wouldn't it be 
wonderful if, with a wave of the hand, we could make 
the summer garden as perfect as this ? And once per- 
fected, drench it in some such arresting atmosphere?" 

"We can do it. Or almost," she said. "But not with 
a wave of the hand." 

"No, not with a wave of the hand." 

And then we found ourselves near the springhouse. 
It rose up into the fog like a monument, all its rotting 
structure transformed. 

"Let's not go too near," she said softly. "Let them 
rest in peace." 

"Always you think of those women," I said. 

"I feel very close to them now," she answered. And 


<A kame fo% evil 

then after a little, in some panic, "Which way is the 

I put her arm in mine. "Don't fret. I know the way 

She drew away. "But where is it? One could wan- 
der here for hours. IVe heard of such things." She 
turned around and pointed, one way and then another, 
and I saw that her alarm was real. 

"Don't get excited. I'll take you out." 

I reached for her hand. 

"No, no," she cried. "I'll wait here. I know where 
I am here. You find the gate and call me. I'll come." 

I was torn between staying and going. To leave her 
in such a state seemed a kind of abandonment. I must 
calm her. But she would not hear of me staying. "Go ! 
Go !" she said. 

It was apparent I must end this condition of affairs 
as quickly as possible. To remain another instant 
might set forever the mark of terror in her eyes. In 
my haste I moved blindly into the fog. It was then, 
swallowed up by it, I found that in my solicitude for 
her I had lost direction. I stopped and looked every 
way into the white deep air, and every way it opened 
tip but only to show itself. The solid whiteness had 
usurped the air. There was no center, no four points 
of the compass. Within the circle the circle had qome 
to an end. 

But I knew there was a gate and, feeling now my- 
self some panic, I began to run, trusting to blind 
chance. I quickly enough came up against the wall, 



but it was the unbroken wall I touched. Time and 
again I retraced my steps, approached it by the next 
path, but always the gate eluded me. And everywhere 
the trodden snow and everywhere the motionless depth 
of the fog, the cold dull white cloud of it, and beyond 
it the hard substance of the wall, surrounding us, con- 
fining us, the little gap closed up. Then at one certain 
moment I discovered my center of being had become 
the nameless dread which lurks in dreams, is known 
but may not be named. 

In this white blindness I reached to my forehead and 
brushed away the clammy sweat. Should I call out to 
Ellen and terrify her? Not yet certainly. Instead, 
slowly I trod the crystal floor, looking down, fearing 
now the effluvium which had replaced the air and 
which at first had seemed so beautiful. 

So it happened that in this latter stage of my bewil- 
derment the fog took from me the sense of time. 

But remembering the woodsman's trick, I began 
myself to move in a circle, carefully widening it. This 
was a last resort. It might bring me back to Ellen. 
There was no other way now. Together again we 
could wait until Johnny came to feed the stock. If I 
shouted, he might hear me. But when would that be ? 
Would the dark blot out this whiteness ? Would Johnny 
feed, early and slip back to his house before I could 
call? Once together again, I would explain to Ellen, 
and like a foghorn I would call out at intervals. 

Treading the circle I had made, something, some in- 
tuition, made me lift my eyes from my tracks. There 



she was, barely visible in the opaque light, directly in 
front of me. She had not heard me come up. She stood 
with her head slightly bent, in the frozen tension of 
one who looks down into an abyss. Her hands were 
clasped over her bosom. I felt a boundless relief, but 
as I looked more sharply I saw that she was listening 
to no spoken words, but to some secret communication 
she was well practiced in deciphering. The whole ap- 
palling truth was before me. 

"Ellen!" I screamed. 

My anguish and the fixity of my purpose to save her 
gave to my cry its unearthly quality. She bounded for- 
ward, whirled around and, looking blindly at me, made 
the sound of a wounded beast. And then she saw me. 
For one instant she turned upon me a wild, transform- 
ing stare, when she began to back slowly away, moan- 
ing, "No, no, no," over and over again. 

"Stop! It's me," I called out. 

But she did not stop. It was then I saw toward what 
she was moving. A few steps away, on the platform of 
the springhouse stood my enemy, waiting. There was 
no need to look but in my instantaneous glance I saw 
that he was dressed as a bridegroom. And I saw his 
face, the hateful features I had come to know as well 
as my own, triumph and desire shining out of the hol- 
low eyes. And then the two long arms reached forth. 

"You shall not !" I shouted and dashed forward. 

But I was a fraction of a moment too late. With a 
lightness she could not have managed alone Ellen 
leaped upon the platform where she was awaited. I 


o4 HA ME F0% EVIL 

heard a crackling of timbers, a long crash, and there 
before my eyes she and Major Brent disappeared into 
the depths below. 

I tore open the old trap door, half ran, half slid 
down the rotten steps. I stood in the inner darkness 
of the pit, sinking up to my ankles in the oozing muck 
which for years had stopped up the spring's mouth. 
From above, where the floor had broken through, a 
dull light penetrated into the gloom— enough for me 
to make out the heap lying in front of me. With a cry 
of hope I knelt, I gathered her into my arms. Oh, with 
what passion I held her! Carefully now I whispered 
her name. She was slow to answer. Hoarsely I shouted 
it, but the round walls of the slimy pit, not she, gave 
back the lifeless word. Desperately my eyes reached 
for the light to make it show me her face. The light 
hovered, like a strain of breath, below the break in the 
floor. I saw it cast no reflection, but I saw this without 
surprise. Already I knew what it was I held in my 
arms, and I knew that at last I was alone. 


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